(Original Title: Er Ist Wieder Da)
German people are not known to me for their sense of humour – they are though for their atrocities. David Wnendt changes this around completely, embarking on a highly self-deprecating comedy that is painfully self-conscious and ashamed, while at the same philosophical and insightful. In Look Who’s Back, when one stops laughing briefly, he’s immediately hit with the multiple after-thoughts of what has just been uttered. He’s forced to linger over that line or moment, at times missing out on other absurd occurrences coming his way – that’s why Wnendt’s film deserves several viewings. This extremely German comedy is so satirical and self-critical, so surprisingly layered and deep, that one viewing might well be as good as none.
Hitler wakes up in a suburb in Berlin in 2014 – this premise alone entails endless comical possibilities, which in fact the filmmaker explores without hesitation. Hitler finds that his beloved race is not all that Aryan. They seem to be of various colours and backgrounds, running laundry places and convenience stores, watching and even appearing on trash TV. They don’t even salute anymore; if the full salute was too much, a half lift of the arm could have worked just as well – but no salute whatsoever makes 2014-Germany a terrible place that Hitler couldn’t possibly approve of.
Read at Unsung Films: The Wave.
They, however, his beloved race that is, seem to adore him once again. This time, they see him as the ultimate comedian – a mime on the main shopping street, a performer who refuses to let go of his persona, a true clown they can get a good selfie next to. They admire his dedication to his art and they love how close to life his act is. He quickly becomes the centre of the media’s attention, for the second time in his life, but for vastly different reasons this time around. Right?
Not quite. What starts as a hilarious situation comedy in which Hitler is given his own SNL style show on TV, gradually and sneakily transforms into an awkward series of events with disturbing consequences and history coming too close to repeating itself. The turn is subtle and you don’t notice it when it happens, but it does happen – we do almost find ourselves there once again.
The Wave (Original Title: Die Welle) did something very similar, only in a more dramatic, exaggerated and ultimately tragic way. They both deal with the same question, and they are both just as effective, the only difference being that one does it through drama and the other satire. They both trace this grand error back to its roots and attempt to explain the little things that made a seemingly intellectually advanced society embark on such extreme wrongdoing.
The clarifications are more vivid and disturbing than any history book would have them – mainly because we can understand the error at times, and to a certain extent, I’m afraid to even say it, but relate to it. And although we hopefully wouldn’t repeat it, after these two films, we might not find it as insane as we did (or as we should find it). This is terrifying, but gets the message across more than effectively. It seems as though to avoid ever becoming so obsessively prejudiced and immoral again is to fully step into the evildoer’s shoes and comprehend the series of lies, disappointments and false hopes that made him a criminal in the first place.
Watch the teasers for Look Who’s Back here: