We’ve all been curious about how it would go down if he came back. How would people react? Would he manage to get to the same level of influence that he was back in his heyday, or would he barely even be able to function due to the shock of seeing the modern world? Who exactly am I referring too? Adolf Hitler, of course.
This question is answered in the 2015 German film “Look Who’s Back”, (known in Germany as “Er Ist Wieder Da”. The film was directed by David Wnendt, and is based off of the satirical novel of the same name by Timur Vermes.
The film opens with Adolf Hitler, played damn near perfectly (or perfectly to me at least, I’ve never met Hitler) by German actor Oliver Masucci, suddenly waking up in a park where his bunker used to be. Disoriented and in shock, Hitler wanders the streets of Berlin and asks random people for information on his situation, but everyone thinks he’s just some crazy street performer. Eventually, he manages to be taken in by the owner of a small newsstand. From there, Hitler spends his time reading about what the world has gone through in the last seventy years. After staying a few nights in the newsstand, Hitler eventually meets a small time director named Sawatzki, played by Fabian Busch. The two then go on a cross country journey to make something that can be pitched to the TV network Sawatzki used to work for.
An interesting part of the film is its use of unscripted interactions with random German citizens between the scripted story bits, similar to the Sacha Baron Cohen Film Borat. The only difference here is that this film replaces the lovable Kazakhstan TV personality with… Adolf Hitler. This is where the film really shines in my opinion, because although the scripted story is very interesting, these candid conversations are nothing short of fascinating.
Masucci, in full character, will go up to these people and start having conversations with them about Hitler’s worldviews in a way that doesn’t come off as sinister, but as genuinely heartfelt and interesting. It gets kind of scary at some points, because the way that he articulates some of these ideas is so good that you almost in a weird way start to agree with him. I caught myself many times nodding my head at what he was saying, only to realize that these were the same gross ideas that destroyed western civilization.
Although there are dissenters, many of the people that Hitler ends up speaking to are seen to agree with him. Sure there was the usual collective of meatheads and scary looking people, but there were also a fair amount of seemingly normal looking people who agreed with him as well. A lot of them especially seemed to gravitate towards his hard stance on immigrants, which is still a very pressing issue in Europe today.
Eventually, Sawatzky’s old network is blown away by what they think is an extremely talented comedian, and they give him a guest spot on their most popular comedy talk show. A monologue is written for Hitler to give, but instead of telling jokes, he goes into a fiery speech that calls the entire nation of Germany to action. The speech resonates with millions, and before long Hitler is a social media celebrity.
No more are these dangers highlighted than in the film’s ending, which is especially bleak. After wrapping up a film about how he ended up in the present, and with his already massive popularity only growing by the day; The big H decides that now is a great time for his return to politics. “I can work with this,” he says.
Although the comedic shock value and main draw of the film obviously comes from the fact that Adolf Hitler is walking around and talking to people, you would be wrong to think that the film doesn’t go any deeper than that. In fact, the real horror stem’s more from it’s examination of how our modern culture can be so easily manipulated by things like social media and the 24 hour news cycle.
When I say this, i’m not talking about this perceived notion that the “Mainstream Media” is brainwashing us and poisoning the water with things that will change the sexual orientation of frogs. That’s stupid. What I am talking about is the fact that as someone who works with social media regularly to promote his garbage, I can tell you first hand that it’s not something built to keep us well informed with unbiased information. You hear the term “echo-chamber” thrown around a lot, but it’s true; all of us on social media are presented news and information that is carefully tailored to appeal to us specifically, and not provide a larger picture of what’s really going on.
While the scenario of Hitler using social media to rebrand his same ideas into something very new and appealing in modern times to regain power is a bit out there, you’d be hard pressed to not acknowledge the fact that these same tactics aren’t used by others to do the exact same thing. I know what you’re thinking, and no, this isn’t exclusive to the orange man in the high castle. Everyone does it.
Although this film is labeled a comedy, it really is more of a meditation on how easily we can fall right back into the ideas we fought so hard against all those years ago. While not an open condemnation of the way media plays a role in our society, it is a warning of what can happen if we do not remain vigilant, and call ourselves out if we find that we’re starting to goose step too far down the rabbit hole.
On a lighter note I can’t recommend this movie enough, and you can watch it right now on Netflix.
Jonah Nink is a Freshman at UIC currently study english and communications. Listen to him say words on “The Longplay”, every Tuesday from 9pm to 10pm on UIC Radio.