You wouldn’t think you could make a movie about a Jewish actor being pulled out of a concentration camp in order to help Hitler (Helge Schneider) with his speech presentation skills… and make it funny at that. But, its been done, right here.
Adolf Grünbaum (Ulrich Mühe) is that actor. He’s pulled from the camps at the behest of Goebbels himself, much to the dismay of many in the Reich. He proceeds to school Hitler in all manner of acting and presentation skills and exercises, while finding lots of ways to “get at” der Furher. Most notably rendering him unconscious through a punch to the face when asked why he (and his people) don’t fight back. Grunbaum does hatch a plan to do just that, and nearly succeeds…. but I don’t want to spoil the whole thing!
From the beginning, you can tell that its going to be funny, with a Python-esque routine of multiple “Heils!” as he’s escorted into the main office, and then given a ham sandwich. And there are plenty of humorous moments, especially at the end during the speech. A lot of it is pretty tongue-in-cheek, dry wit, kind of stuff, but funny nonetheless. But, there is always a very serious undertone throughout the film. So much so at times that any humor that gets laid over the top doesn’t seem quite so funny anymore. Either that or the humor is immediately met with some atrocity (like the ending), classically tragic, or equally dark, pensive moment that you quickly forget what it was you were laughing at.
That’s not to say its just a roller coaster ride, either. The conversations between Grunbaum and Hitler become quite intense and provocative, and should make you think about quite a bit.
Then there’s Schneider’s Hitler. While he’s an excellent actor, I never really “bought” his portrayal here. Maybe because he looked more like Richard Nixon than Hitler throughout, I don’t know. The role here is of a classic tragic/comic figure who is predictably inept at just about everything. But then again he’s meant to be a clown here, so there’s always that. I was expecting more of a “straight man” approach to Hitler, but that seems to be more Grunbaum’s character.
I am finding it hard to say if I liked this film, or not. Like I said, it has its moments, both funny and not, but that whole shadow of darkness that is always waiting to stick its head out and go “hey, remember me?” ruins the comedy. A lot. Whether this was the intent of the filmmakers I’m not sure.
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