The film industry is no stranger to movies set in Germany during the Second World War. However, Jojo Rabbit brings new life and an unsuspected humour to the usually dark genre.

Jojo Rabbit takes viewers into the perspective of a young German boy, Jojo Betzler, (Roman Griffin Davis) who struggles with his strong nationalism and Nazi sentiment as he discovers his mother (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) in their home. Director Taika Waititi also plays the impish imaginary friend of Jojo, Adolf Hitler, who offers the boy comic support and advice as he works through his moral objections. The film is sprinkled with dark humour, reminiscent of Monty Python, which offers glimmers of light in an otherwise serious story that grapples with a child’s blind innocence and the horrors of the Nazi Regime.

Griffin Davis’ performance throughout the film was strong and, if necessary, could have carried the entire storyline; his evolution throughout the film is commendable. From the childlike wonder and irreproachability, so blindly devoted to the Nazi party, to the gradual revelations the boy makes as his world changes around him in the later stages of the war, Griffin Davis’ performance never falters. The cast was strong throughout, but it is difficult to deny that the stand-out performance belonged to the young actor.

The story itself is vaguely familiar, but it is the way in which it is told that allows Jojo Rabbit its cinematic independence. Waititi uses imaginary Hitler as a kind of brilliant mirror into the inner workings of Jojo’s conscience. Similarly, as Jojo’s mind begins to be challenged, so too does his friend Hitler evolve.

In another contrast to other period films, the colour scheme is generally light and airy as a way of highlighting the persevering beauty and humanity in dark times. The cinematography is reminiscent to that of Wes Anderson in its composition and aesthetically pleasing design.

Beyond all else, the story brilliantly illuminates the complex humanity of people and the struggle to be good and find goodness in the world around us. It highlights the intricacies of human character and lends a new perspective to an otherwise familiar story. Jojo Rabbit injects humour and light into a tragic time in human history without diminishing the gravity of the subject in a carefully balanced line. Had the direction been even ever-so-slightly changed, the film could well have been on the distasteful side of the line. Luckily, Watiti does a fantastic balancing act.

4 stars

Image: Movie DB

Taylor Ogle is a Lifestyle Editor at Forge Press.

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