• Germany's news in English

'He's back': Hitler movie hits nerve in Germany

AFP · 10 Oct 2015, 10:52

Published: 10 Oct 2015 10:52 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

That's the premise of "He's Back" ("Er ist wieder da"), a biting social satire by author Timur Vermes, the movie version of which premiered in German cinemas this week.

In the bestselling what-if novel published three years ago, Hitler is baffled to find himself in a multicultural Germany led by a woman, Chancellor Angela Merkel.

He discovers TV chefs, Wikipedia and the fact that Poland still exists before he ends up a small-screen star, in a social commentary on society, mass media and celebrity hype.

The film, however, goes a step further and sprinkles the story with documentary-style scenes -- in the style of Sacha Baron Cohen's 2006 comedy "Borat" -- giving the screen version a more disturbing twist.

In the real-life scenes, lead actor Oliver Masucci -- replete with Hitler moustache and uniform -- is seen getting rousing receptions from ordinary people, many of whom pose for "selfies" with him.

Tourists and football fans cheer the fake Hitler at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate, in a Bavarian village and elsewhere, and elderly people pour their hearts out to him, often voicing extremist views.

"Yes, bring back labour camps," says one citizen to the dictator.

Such scenes have touched a raw nerve in Germany which, amid a record influx of refugees, has also suffered an upsurge in xenophobic protests and attacks against asylum-seekers.

"There is a smouldering anger among the people, like in the 1930s," says the Hitler character, with visible satisfaction.

Masucci, best known as a stage actor, told Bild daily about his mixed feelings while shooting the unscripted scenes with people on the street.

"During shooting, I realised: I didn't really have to perform -- people felt a need to talk, they wanted to pour their hearts out to a fatherly Hitler who was listening to them," he said.

"I found it disturbing how quickly I could win people over. I mean, they were talking to Hitler."

Hitler in the film also meets members of the populist-nationalist Alternative for Germany party and the neo-Nazi NPD, while the final scenes show news footage of far-right mobs and a rally by the PEGIDA movement, short for "Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident".

The release of the movie has touched off broad debate in a country where guilt over World War II and the Holocaust continues to influence political debate.

"A fake Hitler, a small moustache clearly helped people lose their inhibitions and... allowed insights into Germany's dark side," found the daily Berliner Morgenpost.

After all, it said, Hitler, in a figurative sense, "never really left".

"The far-right ideology smoulders to this day and has found new forums... in the form of the Alternative for Germany and the PEGIDA movement," it said.

A review by news portal Spiegel Online was more critical: "Borat with a bar-moustache and side parting: It sounds like a clever flick," it said. "But really it's rather silly.

"Because what would be an appropriate response from a passer-by to the Hitler masquerade? It reveals nothing, neither people's indifference nor their hidden sympathies."

Story continues below…

Tagesspiegel daily pointed out that "Hitler sells", in a trend that has been dubbed the 'banalisation of evil' and has turned the monstrous historical figure into something of a commercialised pop icon.

"70 years after the end of the 'Third Reich', which left countries destroyed and millions dead, the dictator has shrunk to become a caricature, either loaded with nonsense or with meaning, in books, cinema, TV, Internet," it said.

At the public premiere Thursday, a Berlin audience roared with laughter during the funnier moments, but quietened during some of the real-life footage.

One viewer, who gave her name as Angela, thought "it was all a bit too forced. The film is playing too hard on the fear about Nazi ideology, and they only picked out the worst sequences."

Another viewer, Tobias, was more disturbed, given the real-life resurgence of the populist far-right.

"This is real," he said. "We need to debate this. It shows how easily people can be manipulated. This is the right moment, because the danger is here now."


For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Today's headlines
Creepy clown scare spreads to Germany
Two of the clowns were apparently equipped with chainsaws. Photo: Pedro Pardo / AFP file picture

Police said Friday five incidents involving so-called scary clowns had occurred in two north German town, including one assailant who hit a man with a baseball bat, amid fears that Halloween could spark a rash of similar attacks.

Student fined for spying on women via their webcams
Photo: DPA

Student from Munich fined €1,000 for spying on 32 different computers, using their webcams to take photographs, or record their keyboard history.

This is how much startup geeks earn in Germany
Photo: DPA

A comprehensive new survey of 143 startup founders shows how much you are likely to be earning at a German startup, from entry level all the way up to sitting on the board.

Man dies after beating for peeing near Freiburg church
The Johannes Church in Freiburg. Photo Jörgens Mi/Wikipedia

A middle-aged man from southern Germany has died after being attacked by a group of men who took umbrage with the fact he was urinating in the vicinity of a church.

The Local List
Seven German celebrities with uncanny doppelgängers
Former Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit and actor Alec Baldwin. Photo: DPA; Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia Commons

Check out these seven look-a-likes of well known German figures - we admit that some are more tenuous than others...

Israel seeks to buy three new German submarines: report
A Dolphin class submarine. Photo: DPA

Israel is seeking to buy three more advanced submarines from Germany at a combined price of €1.2 billion, an Israeli newspaper reported Friday.

Here’s where people live the longest in Germany
Photo: DPA

Germans down south seem to know the secret to a long life.

More Germans identify as LGBT than in rest of Europe
Photo: DPA

The percentage of the German population which identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is higher than anywhere else in Europe, according to a new study.

'Reichsbürger' pair attack police in Saxony-Anhalt
File photo: DPA.

A "Reichsbürger" and his wife attacked police officers on Thursday, just a day after another Reichsbürger fatally shot an officer in Bavaria.

Five things not to miss at the Frankfurt Book Fair
Photo: DPA

From consulting a book doctor to immersing yourself in an author's world with the help of virtual reality, here are five things not to miss at this week's Frankfurt Book Fair, the world's largest publishing event.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd