A comedy film that leaves Sacha Baron Cohen out in the cold…

… In both shock factor and in pointed social commentary.

What is such a film? It is called Look Who’s Back (In German: Er ist wieder da) directed by David Wnendt and it’s available on Netflix. The plot? Hitler gets transported to 2014 Germany and tries to make his way in 21st century Germany. The movie is a combination of unscripted Borat-style shockumentary with Oliver Masucci dressed as Hitler talking to regular Germans and scripted story scenes that give the movie a coherent thread.

It’s bonkers, and hilarious and also unsettling. Also, it’s made by Germans, which considering the… sensitivities around this part of their history and collective memory, this is an admirable and brave feat.

On that note, props to Wnendt and his cast of actors. The line between what is funny and what is just plain nasty is a very fine one on this matter and Wnendt played that line like a single-stringed violin and produced an admirable melody with out screeching or scratching the sound.

So you should watch it. It makes you laugh and then really think (or maybe it’s just me, I am one of those annoying people that thinks about movies, books, music and art). Thanks to my old friend Chesterton, I know why this comedy left me more than a little perturbed:

“If there is only one fact, that we can prove, from the history we really do know, it is that despotism can be a development, often a late development and very often indeed the end of societies that have been highly democratic. A despotism may almost be defined as a tired democracy. As fatigue falls on a community, the citizens are less inclined for that eternal vigilance which has truly been called the price of liberty; and they prefer to arm only one single sentinel to watch the city while they sleep.”

G. K. Chesterton, ‘The Antiquity of Civilisation’, The Everlasting Man (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1925), 53. [emphasis mine]

This movie makes this point every eloquently by drawing parallels between the very tired Wiemar Republic and today’s Germany. This tiredness with democracy is certainly not limited to Germany or just Europe. Men like Donald Trump and Rodrigo Duterte, don’t come from nowhere, they come from a tired population of people who are worn out by rapid changes to the world they know and are simply left behind and left out.

Don’t think we in Australia are immune to democratic exhaustion either. Last election was definitely an interesting one, not least because the people who feel left behind and forgotten have made their voice loud and clear with the return of parties like One Nation. One ignores these voices at the peril of one’s electoral prospects and at the peril of our democracy itself.

Democracy is for everyone, especially when you don’t agree with them or consider them to be unwashed masses. Those ‘unwashed masses’ get tired with being feeling shut out or shut down and insecure and when someone comes along whispering sweet-nothings about restoring a by-gone era of safety, can you honestly blame them for following?

Watch this movie. There’s lessons for all democratic countries here, both old and tired and new and emerging.

P.S. This is NOT a sponsored post, so I took the time out of the goodness of my heart to share with you this Artistic Public Service Announcement of why you should watch this movie.

Thank you to Mark Shea for helpfully writing something that alerted me to this part of Chesterton’s work I had not encountered before.

**Image Credit: IMDB.com


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