Last weekend I indulged in a short break from the daily stress and all the work and escaped into the cinematic world. But what I saw was more real than anything I could track in the news in the recent weeks. As a passionate explorer and thinker, of course I couldn’t miss the “He’s back”. Highly praised by the reviewers and denoted as revolutionary in the media, it was on the top of my must-seen-list.
And for those who haven’t seen the movie yet or haven’t even heard about it, I will anticipate the story: It is a satire about the person Adolf Hitler. The führer wakes up in Berlin in the year 2014, awaken from a deep slumber and suddenly trapped in the here and now. Trapped is the right term because he has no idea how much the world has turned. Because in his perception of reality, it is still war time and Germany is about to take over the world domination. The fact that the war was lost and that Berlin is a multicultural centre nowadays, that gets to know the führer during the film. What appears funny at the beginning because he tries completely confused to transfer his seemingly outdated views and his thoroughly racist opinion into the new world, takes an insanely tragic turn in the course of the film.
Pushed by a TV channel and an unemployed reporter, Hitler even gets a platform to hype his worldview. Many viewers reject his appearance as a political satire. That the real Hitler could be speaking to them on the screen, that’s a thing they couldn’t believe. Or rather: They
apprehend his statements as the stupidity of a single weirdo firstly. But when he criticizes the television and its function as an entertainment medium, many viewers agree. Even those in the cinema halls. Because Hitler claims that the TV entertainment rates high in times of crisis, diverting people from the current happenings in the world. Therefore the film “The Punch Bowl” was published in 1944. Even today the film industry and the television are saturated with entertainment. Cooking shows, real life documentations and scripted reality broadcasts are on the box from getting up to prime time and fill the viewer’s mind with meaningless content. A mass stultification à la carte which is initiated by television to distract from the current trouble spots: the refugee crisis, the countless wars and the terrorism. An impressive parallels that the cinematic Hitler postulates. It is the starting point for an expedition through Germany, in which the question is asked: How much potential would have Hitler in modern Germany?
Due to a sabotage from the deputy station chief, Hitler is banished from the TV and goes on tour through Germany with the unemployed reporter. From this time on the film takes on surreal features. Because the further film editing is a mixture of 380 hours road shots and a great, theatrical performance of the cinematic Hitler and his reporter. A so called “mockumentary”, a fictional documentary which mingles the boundaries between reality and fiction. While one can clearly recognize the invasion of the NPD party headquarters and the conversation with the former Party chief “Birne” (in English: pear) – the real life name is “Apfel” (apple) – as a fake, the viewer isn’t so sure about the street shots.
The special road trip through Germany – from Berlin to the Baltic Sea coast to Bavaria – turns out quickly into a fan tour for Hitler. People of all nationalities greet him, talk to him and want to take a picture with him. Already this sounds very morbid for many history-conscious people. But when a young kiosk owner unleashes her hatred for foreigners and the NPD cracker-barrel recalls for the reopening of the labour camps, most viewers have the creeping horrors. None of these people would have ever expressed their racism and their disenchantment with democracy so openly in front of a reporter, as they did in front of a faked Hitler.
The zenith of the film is the interview with an NPD functionary. Hitler asks him if he wants to join his war plans. Finally, the road trip isn’t just a fan tour, but primarily a recruiting mission for another, German war. The man didn’t respond immediately, but asked for turning off the camera. On the audio recording, which continued functioning, one can hear the functionary saying: “If you were the real one, I would.” Inspired by all the experiences that Hitler made on his way through Germany, he draws a devastating conclusion, not for himself but for the German people. Because he is sure: “I can work with this material!”
And that’s the problem of these days. What is the real racist potential in all of us? And is such a war, as it was contrived in 1939, really inconceivable in the light of the refugee drama and the entry into the Syrian war?