Before I start, I feel that it is necessary for me to tell you that this in no way is a critical review of the film Jojo Rabbit. This is an article appreciating a story and the way of telling it in all its beauty.
A story of the second world war told through the creative eyes of the writer, director and in this case Adolf Hitler, Taika Waititi. Jojo Rabbit is a story of a little boy who likes all others during that era had been brainwashed to hate the Jews since the moment he was born.
The movie is a satire that constantly mocks the misconceptions Germans had about the Jews. The story is narrated in such a way that Hitler is never actually shown in action individually throughout the course of the movie. Instead, he is depicted as mere fragments of Jojo’s imagination.
Jojo is a ten-year-old admirer of the Führer and constantly imagines having conversations with him. In these conversations, The Hitler of his imagination is always persuading the boy to do his best to get into the German army and befriend Hitler.
When Jojo arrives at a training camp to be trained in order to be recruited in the army, he refuses to kill a Rabbit, is deemed a coward by his peers and is branded as Jojo Rabbit. To prove himself worthy, Jojo snatches a hand grenade from his commander, deploys it without following instructions and ends up injuring himself.
His true journey starts when Jojo sees himself as a cripple after the accident injures his leg and scars his face. He is constantly branded as ugly, a demon, and a scary-looking child and his mocked by adults because of the scars. His mother Rosie is his support system who stands by him throughout his journey and like all mothers is a pillar of strength for her son when the father wasn’t around. The sweetest of moments occur when Jojo questions his abilities and worth as he isn’t able to tie his own shoelaces and his mother provides him with words of encouragement while tying them for him.
Another discovery comes Jojo’s way when he finds out that his mother was a supporter of the allies and wants Hitler and the Nazi’s to lose. The futility of Hitler’s rules is shown in a scene where the Gestapo comes in for an inspection of Jojo’s house and a series of “Heil Hitler” greetings occur.
When after the inspection Jojo leaves his house, he comes across the town square where the traitors to Germany were hanged, only to find his mother hanging along with the others. He notices that her shoelaces are undone and tries to tie them for her but to no avail. As Jojo wept in front of his mother’s hanging corpse, the buildings seemed to have sprouted eyes, as they watched the little boy weep in dismay. What else could he do when he had lost the only support system he had known throughout his life?
While all this was happening, Jojo realizes that he had fallen in love with the Jewish girl he so desperately tried to hate. He makes her his new source of strength and bonds more deeply with Elsa.
He rummages through the bins trying to find food to feed himself and Elsa all while changing his opinions about the Jews.
When he returns home to talk to Elsa about the war, he is faced by the Hitler of his imaginations who makes a final, desperate attempt at convincing him to be a proud Nazi. Jojo ultimately pushes him through the window and out of his thoughts as he goes to talk to Elsa.
In a desperate attempt to hold on to the only person he has left, Jojo lies to her about Germany winning the war. He was conflicted and at war with himself on whether to let Elsa go or not. Ultimately, he decides to tell her the truth and brings her out under the ruse of helping her to flee to France. A heart-wrenching scene occurs when at the doorstep, the little boy who couldn’t tie his dead mothers’ shoelaces, ends up doing so for the girl he loves before introducing her to the truth and letting her go.
When Elsa and Jojo step out of the house, Elsa sees the allied flags waving in the sky and people celebrating and finally feels free.
The movie ends with a beautiful quote that says,
“Let everything happen to you
Beauty and terror
Just keep going
No feeling is final.
-Rainer Maria Rilke.
Jojo comes out of the entire ordeal as a ten-year-old man with changed beliefs and a whole new perspective of the world.