Look Who’s Back

Year: 2015
Production Co: Mythos Films
Director: David Wnendt
Writer: David Wnendt/Mizzi Meyer/Timur Vermes
Cast: Oliver Masucci, Fabian Busch

I hadn't even realised this was a movie, but after reading the book when it came out I saw it listed on Netflix one day and added it to my queue. I wasn't expecting anything groundbreaking beyond the interesting premise behind the story, which is why I was so unprepared for how hilarious it was.

There's a single sequence of a TV executive bawling out a bunch of underlings that's a direct lift and satire of the scene in Downfall made famous by a thousand internet memes, and it represents Look Who's Back's approach to its own material whole-heartedly. In telling the story of how Adolf Hitler wakes up in the modern day and how the world deals with him, it's a meta-comment on how the world would deal with a movie about the world dealing with Adolf Hitler, and a satire of the Downfall scene that's been satirised so thoroughtly is the perfect expression of it.

It's partly a fish out of water comedy and partly a comment on today's celebrity-obsessed culture and how it bestows fame and adulation on mediocrity, but the devil's in the details. Just like in Groundhog Day, the phenomenon that causes Adolf Hitler to wake up suddenly in the year 2015 where his bunker used to stand is never explained, we're just left to see what happens.

With none of his military infrastructure left in the world but the sense of grandiose pride and entitlement befitting his position intact, the Fuerher (Oliver Masucci, as effective and believable as Bruno Ganz was in Downfall) is nevertheless confused and uncomfortable, having to convince a street vendor to let him sleep in the man's magazine stand for a few days and wearing a ridiculous get-up while he has his uniform cleaned.

Meanwhile, down on his luck journalist Fabian is making a documentary about kids in the park where Hitler woke up, and whenhis TV staion boss Cristoph gives him his marching orders, Fabian thinks his number's up in the business.

But when he's watching the footage back he realises he's captured the strange man dressed like a Nazi officer in the footage, and thinks he might be onto a story that convinces Christoph to take him back. Fabian seeks Hitler out and realises he's met either a crackpot who thinks he's really Adolf Hitler or the world's most dedicated impressionist and performance artist. Thinking Hitler might be his ticket, Fabien suggests a road trip with the Fuehrer that Christoph can make a TV show out of.

Everyone who meets them in the street or sees him on TV loves Hitler, making him a social media and TV star despite having no idea he's the real Third Reich leader who still wants to espouse the hateful policies he peddled in his own time.

The sight of him on a zany TV show with colourful backdrops and a laugh track talking about the struggles of the Volk and how National Socialism will save them from racial impurity is symbolic of the whole movie, and the paradox provides the intellectual humour of the film.

But there's a lot of welcome overt humour too, and you'll burst into laughter more than once. The fish out of water motifs like Hitler learning how to use a computer and look stuff up on the internet have been done to death in lesser movies but Masucci's conviction in the performance sells it all beautifully.

In fact he has a Flying High quality about him, where he doesn't once wink at the camera and he's not once in on the joke. Like the characters of Steve McCroskey, Clarence Oveur and Rex Kramer, there isn't a single chink in the armour of Masucci being the real Hitler and it simply lets the crazy vagaries of the modern world bounce off him.

I remember the book seeming like a good idea but it didn't change my life. I only watched the film out of mild curiosity, but it leaves so many so-called comedies so far behind in the dust I'm glad I did.

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