Which historical figure would you choose to resurrect? Elvis Presley? Marilyn Monroe? Your own family members? Well, how about Adolf Hitler? (Maybe not your first choice.)
Look Who’s Back (2015) explores what might unfold if the Führer was brought back into our modern world, disorientated and oblivious to how and why he got here. The film starts with Hitler’s awakening in 2011, Berlin, then tells the tale of his discovery, becoming a famous TV comedian and eventually once again gaining a cult following as he tries to re-create the Germany he once lost. Based on a novel by Timur Vermes, this black comedy gives us an insight into the minds of both Hitler and the modern German people. Oliver Masucci gives a frightfully accurate portrayal of the famous leader, nailing the infamous characteristics and domineering personality. The film is in German, so make sure you keep track of those subtitles, or you might miss the jokes.
At its core this film is a comedy. The concept is frankly bizarre and the film could’ve easily been very dark, but the finished result really is funny, witty, and clever. As Adolf emerges 60 years into the future in a city familiar yet radically different, we get a look into how much we have changed in such a short space of time. Seeing someone who is typically uptight and grounded running around scared of selfies, being hit by cars, and harassed by street performers, is classic slapstick, seen in a lot of the old Hitler parodies that aired during and after the War. Hitler’s lack of modern knowledge is a running gag throughout the film, as he discovers the wonders of The Internet and is delighted by mobile phones. Along with this, Hitler’s stark contrast to modern life and insight into the way in which Germany has been Americanized provides satirical humor.
However, as the film goes on the comedy skews darker. This clearly follows the tone of the film, as the story becomes more serious, yet it does feel that a couple more jokes slipped in could have improved the last quarter of the film. Be sure to brush up on your German history before watching; a lot of the jokes require some knowledge of people and things that happened during WWII.
What makes this film so fascinating is the thoughts it leaves you with after finishing. The concept is one that no one really wants to happen, but one can’t help thinking “What if he did come back?” The result presented is a somewhat scary one: the public in this film identify with him, believing that he is just a method actor who won’t break character. However, the comments he makes are similar if not the same as in his initial rise to power. So would the world actually endorse Hitler if he came back? Look Who’s Back says they might.
This is a film based on a novel, and in many ways sticks to its original source. The book is narrated from Adolf’s perspective, and the film adaptation does this as much as it can, giving us internal monologues and great camera work to depict these inner ramblings. A lot of the film is in mockumentary style, where Hitler interviews “real Germans” across the country on political issues. It is never clear whether these are real interviews with the public, but it adds a clever twist on what could’ve been a dull section of the story.
The acting and comedic timing in this film are excellent, taking a difficult character and making him, in parts, likable and funny. Along with this, Masucci has a great supporting cast including Katja Riemann, who plays the powerful station manager Frau Bellini and Fabian Busch who plays the bumbling sidekick, Sawatzki, the man who discovers Hitler and makes him famous.
Running time is the only big issue with this film. A lot of scenes didn’t need to be included for story, however some, and I’m assuming this includes the director, would agree that these scenes expand the world and grow the principal character.
When I first watched this film after reading the book, I was a bit cynical. The ending varies from its source material and takes the whole concept too far but is nonetheless accurate. It still follows the feel of the story, keeping the character’s personalities and comedy in smaller doses. It’s a very natural successor to the book and effectively captures the version of Hitler created by Vermes.
Look Who’s Back is a fascinating concept that mixes satirical comedy with mind-bending questions. It almost brings about a feeling of dread after watching, but this is what makes this film stand out and grab your attention. The film is currently on Netflix and worth a watch, especially for those, like me, who are purely intrigued by the “what if?” theory.