Jojo Rabbit and 1917
Rated M (Jojo) and MA15+ (1917)
While radically different, historical dark comedy Jojo Rabbit and straight war drama 1917 are two of the finest films of last year.
Sam Mendes’ 1917 follows two young British soldiers on an urgent mission behind enemy lines, while Jojo Rabbit is about Jojo (Roman Griffith Davis), a fanatical member of the Hitler Youth whose imaginary best friend is Hitler (writer-director Taika Waititi), finding Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie), a Jew, hiding in his house.
While stylised for dark comedic effect, Jojo Rabbit’s costuming and set design generate extraordinarily vivid atmosphere, and the film’s richly-layered narrative cleverly engages with the theme of illusion. As Jojo and Elsa slowly bond and the former’s zealous beliefs wane, Jojo’s imaginary friend Hitler changes from a whimsical, supportive buddy to a sinister reflection of reality. As Jojo and Elsa tell each other unlikely stories, real trust and respect grows between them in a touching progression.
1917 is much simpler – on the surface, it’s a lean, gruelling war movie with staggering art direction – but Mendes also deals in illusion by pushing the artifice of cinema to its limits. Through seamless effects and editing wizardry, the film is presented as a single unbroken take, which makes the main characters’ struggles feel all the more tense and immediate. We share the soldiers’ stressed alertness through this continuous perspective.
Extremely suspenseful and deeply moving, 1917 and Jojo Rabbit are both powerful dramas with the backdrop of war.