Look Who’s Back
Did Donald Trump watch this movie? It’s an uncannily prescient German film that was shot in 2015 and was based on a best-selling satirical novel, Er ist Wieder da (Look Who’s Back), by Timur Vermes. The book was published in 2012, the film was released in 2015 and was a huge success in Germany. It’s currently streaming on Netflix and the book is available in English translation on Amazon.
It’s clear that Vermes did not have Donald Trump or the United States of America in mind when he wrote his book yet the storyline will seem to viewers close enough to the Trump nightmare to seem prescient. In the film, Adolf Hitler did not die in the bunker in 1945; Vermes imagines him magically transported to the year 2014, waking up confused about where he is and what has happened to him. He soon manages to get his bearings and embarks on a revival of his political career, spouting his brand of virulent fascist dogma, replete with racist, anti-immigrant hate speech; intelligent Germans find him hugely amusing, laughing at his zany antics and the crazy pronouncements, convinced that no one could ever take him seriously. That is a huge miscalculation.
Campaigning on the slogan ‘Make Germany Great Again’, the time-travelling Adolf Hitler taps in to the average German’s discontent with politics as usual. The people are frustrated with politicians who refuse to address their concerns; too many immigrants; too much political correctness; the erosion of democracy; the erosion of racial power. There’s no one voicing their grievances. On his comedy show, and in guest appearances across the viewing spectrum, Hitler openly declares his beliefs and outlines his agenda. Still, people choose to be amused by the spectacle and the media, while recognizing that Hitler is not good for Germany, continue to give him a platform to spread his propaganda because it’s good for their bottom line. Bullshit talks if it pays. In the end of the movie, Hitler is poised to establish a Fourth Reich in Germany, saying of the German alt-right, “I can work with that.” He tells his defeated opponent, “You can’t get rid of me; I am in you. I am Germany.”
Stylistically, this film is destined to become a classic for Film Studies classes; it’s a brilliant movie that mixes documentary clips with scripted studio footage, actors with ordinary people in the street. The blend is perfectly balanced, introducing the right touch of realism that tinges the early comedy with the horror and tragedy that eventually overtakes the story.
Especially today, and especially for the United States of America in the throes of its own ‘Great Movement’, this movie is required viewing.