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Laugh at Hitler

india Updated: Nov 24, 2006 17:21 IST
Highlight Story

A taboo-breaking German comedy portraying Adolf Hitler as a bed-wetter with erectile problems was designed to stir up a public that has grown weary of serious films about the Nazi dictator, its director said on Tuesday.

Dani Levy, a Swiss-born Jewish director, said in an interview with Reuters after an advance press screening of his farce My Führer -- The Truly Truest Truth About Adolf Hitler that he was bracing for vicious reactions.

"It's a very risky film, it's not a movie you make and know what the reaction will be," Levy said of the comedy set for a January release in a country where joking about Hitler is seen as immoral.

"I imagine there will be strong reactions in Israel, the United States and around the world to jokes about Jews. And how will neo-Nazis react? But I'm not afraid," said Levy, who also wrote the screenplay that mixes comedy and tragedy for an at-times jarring kaleidoscope of emotions.

The film is a fictional story of a Jewish acting instructor named Professor Adolf Gruenbaum who in December 1944 is pulled out of a concentration camp to coach Hitler, who is lonely and despondent about the war, for a crucial New Year's speech.

Hitler is having a bad day. His stylist accidentally cut off half of his trademark moustache and he lost his voice screaming at her. He wets his pyjamas, has lost his confidence and suffers further humiliation by his failure in bed with Eva Braun.

There was an overflow crowd of several hundred journalists packed into a screening on Tuesday of the film that is still in post-production, many of them sitting in the aisles. While some laughed for 90 minutes, others never smiled.

FRESH LOOK

Levy, 48, has made a career out of shattering taboos in Germany. His 2005 award-winning box office smash comedy Go for Zucker: An Unorthodox Comedy poked fun at modern Jewish life in Germany, where guilt over the Holocaust remains pervasive.

He said Germans need a fresh look at Hitler because they have been numbed by serious films, documentaries and textbooks.

Turning German history's greatest demon into a comic figure worked outside Germany as Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator and Roberto Benigni's La Vita e Bella showed.

But will Germans be able to laugh at jokes about Hitler and Jews?

"I think there's a need for something other than the educational films of the last 30 or 40 years," said Levy, whose film also pokes fun at some of the highly regarded dramas and documentaries about Hitler and his henchmen.

"The dusty educational approach doesn't really keep your attention for what was beneath the surface. Comedy is a good way to stir people, to confuse their emotions. And to provoke them. They'll laugh and then be shocked at themselves for laughing."

Levy does not pull his punches.

In one scene propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels tries to persuade an initially reluctant Gruenbaum to agree to take the job to coach Hitler.

"Oh please don't take all that final solution stuff as anything personal," he tells him.

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