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Film / Look Who's Back

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Look Who's Back (German title: Er ist wieder da, literal translation: He's Back) is a 2015 German Black Comedy film, directed by David Wnendt. It is the screen adaptation of the book Er Ist Wieder Da.

Oliver Masucci plays Adolf Hitler, who somehow resurrected or time-travelled and wakes up in 2014. He's a Fish out of Temporal Water in a Germany he no longer recognizes at first, but quickly realizes that he can go back in the political business thanks to modern technologies and many people being as gullible as ever.

The film is, depending on how you view it, a more manic and dire interpretation of the book or how the events in the novel actually happened. Compare it against Borat, which also features a striking satirical character making commentary in the form of unscripted interviews with men on the street segmented against a structured plot.

It got an Italian remake in 2018 with Luca Miniero's Sono tornato (meaning "I'm back"). It features Benito Mussolini suddenly appearing in Rome instead of Hitler in Berlin, but other than that it's a straight adaptation. Including the reactions of non-actors at the end.

Tropes specific to the film include:

  • Adaptational Villainy:
    • Sensenbrink, who opposes "the Hitler Show" in the movie was one of its chief (if craven) architects in the novel.
    • Hitler himself, while much more laughable in the movie, is a much more threatening and deceitful individual than he was in the novel.
  • Adolf Hitlarious: Deconstructed, as that's what allows Hitler to express his ideas with little criticism. To him, if being seen as a comedian works and gives him popularity, he'll play along.
  • Always Second Best: Discussed by Hitler regarding Sensenbrink. He identifies right away that Sensenbrink is someone who wants to succeed, but will always only ever be an accessory to success.
  • Amazon Chaser: Downplayed, as Hitler spends a good two minutes of internal monologue describing how he admires Katja Bellini for running her TV broadcast company like an Iron Lady.
  • Animals Hate Him: A dog bites him (and gets shot), a bee gets stuck in his beekeeping-suit...
  • All Germans Are Nazis: Invoked by Hitler in the final scene where he says that he can't be killed because he exists inside all of Germans, and all the Germans that voted for him must have been "monsters" too.
  • Apocalypse Hitler: Double Subverted. Adolf Hitler suddenly appearing in modern-day Germany is seen as pretty damned comedic because he's not used to stuff like the Internet... and then he adapts, and people fall under his thrall because they think a pitch-perfect Hitler impersonator in modern-day Germany is too stupid to be anything but some kind of politically-incorrect joke. The film ends with one of the modern-day people horrified at the fact that he's witnessing history starting to repeat.
  • Artistic License History: Hitler lost the presidential election in 1932 and didn't ever have an absolute majority at the federal election that same year, but as far as most people are concerned, the people of Germany elected him, and that is how this movie treats it, not taking time to make the distinction. The Nazi Party received the most votes in the federal election, but it wasn't enough for a clear majority, and despite this, President Hindenburg (under heavy pressure) still appointed Hitler chancellor — the Nazis came to power in January 1933 without a coalition, which usually forms when no party has the absolute majority. They briefly formed a coalition with the conservative German National People's Party, though the Nazis weren't able to take control entirely until March, when the Reichstag Fire had been used as an excuse to purge their main opponents (KPD; Communist Party of Germany). After this they got the center-right parties to grant them full "emergency" powers and the dictatorship fully took effect as a result. All parties besides the NSDAP were banned a few months later, and Hindenburg died of old age the following year.
  • Ascended Extra: Krömeier's grandmother. In the novel, she isn't directly seen and is written out after Hitler fools her into believing in his supposed goodness. Here she isn't fooled one bit.
  • Ask a Stupid Question...:
    Sawatzki: Wait, so you're called Adolf Hitler and look just like him? What a coincidence!
    Hitler: And what, people tell you, oh, You Don't Look Like You?
    • Also:
      Sawatzki: [to his date's grandmother, about the cake he's eating] Did you bake this?
      Friend Of Vera: Why are you hosing her? That woman is senile. And you're asking whether she baked an Almond-Cream-Strawberry-cake?
  • As Long as There Is Evil: At the end of the film, Sawatzki has a confrontation with Hitler on a rooftop, culminating in Sawatzki shooting Hitler in the face, causing him to fall over the edge of the roof to his apparent death, but when Sawatzki walks over to the edge and takes a look downwards, only to discover there is no body lying on the street. Hitler then suddenly appears behind him, completely unharmed, and tells Sawatzki that it is impossible to get rid of him, as there will always be a part of him, not just within Sawatzki, but within everyone really. Subverted as this is revealed to be a Show Within a Show.
  • Back from the Brink: By the end, Hitler has built up an organization of black-clad followers/bodyguards akin to the SS, essentially resurrecting the organization in the modern day.
  • Bad People Abuse Animals: Hitler has a literal Kick the Dog ("shoot the dog", actually) moment here. Which is ironic considering the real Hitler loved animals and was not known to abuse them.
  • Badass Longcoat: Hitler at the end of the film, along with a Commissar Cap, reminiscent of the outfit he wore as commander-in-chief of the German army during World War II.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: At the end of the movie, Hitler is more popular than ever, and more than ready to get back into politics.
  • Bait-and-Switch: The early parts of the movie make it seems like Adolf Hitlarious is in full effect and depict Hitler as a bumbling idiot who merely lucks his way into getting a show. The later parts make it very clear that Hitler is just as every bit as dangerous as his historical counterpart, with him effortlessly manipulating the modern audience once he finds his footing.
  • Basement-Dweller: Sawatzki still lives with his mother in the film version.
  • Cassandra Truth: Hitler never denies who he really is, with the only person ultimately fully believing that is Sawatzki toward the end of the film, and he ends up being locked up in a mental institution because of this. Vera's grandmother is also convinced he is the real deal, but since she is senile no one will take her seriously.
  • Celebrity Paradox: A montage of media mocking Hitler is shown, which includes the famous rant scene from Downfall. Fabian Busch, the actor for the filmmaker Fabian Sawatzki, played Obersturmbannführer Stehr in Downfall. Thomas Thieme, who played Martin Bormann in Downfall, has a minor role as a TV executive.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The incident of Hitler shooting a dog. Sensenbrink gets hold of it and uses it to run Hitler off the air.
    • The literal gun which Hitler uses in said incident. Sawatzki takes it from him because he can't be trusted with it. It comes up again in the ending when Sawatzki realizes Hitler is the real deal and needs something to kill him with.
  • Cringe Comedy: Sawatzki on a date.
  • Da Editor: Sensenbrink fills this role for the media company Hitler ends up in.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance:
    • All over the film, played both for comedy and for drama. It might be very jarring to see someone pretending to be Hitler and broadcasting his message and world view all over modern Germany... but it is also kind of funny just to see "Hitler in a bumper car".
    • Hitler always addresses Vera as "Fräulein", an honorific for unmarried women that has become very inappropriate since his time.
  • Demoted to Extra: Vera Krömeier's role as Hitler's secretary is downplayed in the movie as are her subplots from the book. The unnamed newspaper kiosk owner that helps Hitler at the start gets the worst of it though as he's a recurring character in the novel that Hitler frequently visits, but he isn't seen after he's conned by Adolf in the film.
  • Downer Ending: Sawatzki discovers that Hitler is the real deal, and as such is deemed insane and locked away in a mental hospital as Hitler's popularity soars, and he's likely to rise to power again.
  • The Dragon: Sawatzki in both versions of the story, however Bellini eventually usurps this role from him in the film.
  • Dramatic Irony: Near the end of the film, Hitler is beaten up by neo-nazis, who claim he's mocking the Führer, and just like nearly everyone else, don't know he's the real deal. Hitler himself points it out after regaining conciousness.
  • Dude, Not Funny!: The brainstorming for racist jokes. One of the comedy writers is absolutely not amused (the viewer probably isn't either...).
  • Eviler than Thou:
    • One scene has Hitler visiting the headquarters of the National Democratic Party and chewing them out for being useless morons and poseurs who haven't actually accomplished anything for the German far-right.
    • Hitler also gets beaten up by Neo-Nazis, who think he's mocking their Fuhrer.
  • Fish out of Temporal Water: Chillingly subverted, as Hitler from 1945 is mostly unfazed by and adapts quickly to 2014 Germany. Hitler is confused for a moment, but only because of the sudden unfamiliarity of his surroundings. Once he reads some newspapers and takes time to adjust to the new technology, he finds the current Germany ready for his come-back.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • A menorah falls over when Krömeier and Sawatski get intimate early in the movie, foreshadowing the reason for the clash between Krömeier's grandmother and Hitler later in the movie.
    • When Sawatzki confronts Hitler, it's clearly nighttime. By the time they reach the roof, it's somehow dawn. It's a clue that everything seen so far is part of an in-universe movie that belongs to a different continuity than the previous scene.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: The youths who answer Hitler's call to arms seem like a bunch of basement-dwelling losers at first, with their pitiful training framed as another gag, but then the ending reveals that he has successfully molded them into a bunch of fanatical believers, essentially making them his new Waffen-SS.
  • Funny Background Event:
    • As part of its Black Comedy feel, in attempting to shoot an animal show with Hitler, Sawatzki tries to explain how great Hitler is with animals while in the background, a dog has latched its jaws around Hitler's legs until he finally kicks and shoots the animal.
    • When the real Sensenbrink visits the set filming "Er Ist Wieder Da", the actor playing Sensenbrink in that movienote  starts mimicking Sensenbrink's movements, even mouthing his words along with the real Sensenbrink.
  • The Future Is Shocking: Hitler, naturally. One of the most humorous scenes has him trying to process the fact that people in the 2010s don't bat an eye at using, um, a certain word as a term of endearment. He does, at the end, find the future not too different from the period that saw his rise in power.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Sawatzki is institutionalized, after learning that Hitler is the actual Hitler and not an actor.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Sensenbrink is very disappointed that to play him in the In-Universe version of "Er Ist Wieder Da" they cast a complete unknown actor, when of course the real Sensenbrink is played by Christoph Maria Herbst, one of the most famous German actors.
    Sensenbrink: Couldn't you have gotten Benno Führ or Bruno Ganz?
    Sawatzki: For such a small role? That would be wasteful.
  • Kick the Dog: Unlike his famed love for dogs, Hitler shoots one when it bites him early in the movie. The idea of the trope is subtly mocked when it's pointed out that "faking" being Hitler is one thing, but the audience would never forgive someone harming a little dog.
  • Lampshade Hanging: When they are first going on tour, Hitler comments that producers devoid of imagination (like Sawatzki) would want to do stuff like "Hitler visits the bank" or "Hitler on the beach (in swimwear)". Later on, we see things like "Hitler at the carnival" or "Hitler visits a honey farm and gets a bee stuck in his glove and gets stung and almost starts crying from the pain" (we'll work on the title).
  • invokedMethod Acting:
    • Sawatzki thinks Hitler is an actor that takes this trope very seriously, so he does not drop character one second. Seeing Hitler stay in-character even after upsetting a Holocaust victim is what finally clues him in that Hitler isn't an actor.
    • In-Universe, possibly combined with Took the Bad Film Seriously. The actor playing Sensenbrink in the In-Universe movie adaption of "Er Ist Wieder Da" is star struck to meet the real Sensenbrink, mentioning that he's "begun to dream like him" and even starts copying him.
  • Mistaken for an Imposter: Everyone in the modern day save a few ignored voices believe that the guy they see is a convincing comedian and social commentator disguised as Adolf Hitler, despite Hitler's own insistence.
  • Mistaken for Profound:
    • Upon being introduced to Wikipedia, Hitler is moved to tears with pride as he believes that the name is a portmanteau of "Wikinger" (the German spelling of Viking) and "Encyclopedia", thus meaning something like "Viking Encyclopedia" and paying homage to Aryan superiority. In reality, "Wiki" is a Hawaiian word meaning "fast" and has nothing to do with the Vikings.
    • After getting beaten by Neo-Nazis, the public begins to view Hitler as a brave political activist who got assaulted by the far-right for mocking their idol. Hitler, of course, is just being himself the entire time.
    • On their first meeting, Hitler insults Sawatzki's sorry state and tells him he's too stupid to find his own uniform. However, Hitler then concludes the rant with a confession that his own uniform is at a laundromat, causing Sawatzki to think his barrage of insults is just a set-up for this brilliant punchline.
  • Nazi Protagonist: One of the few works where the protagonist is not only a Nazi, but the arch-Nazi himself.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Sensenbrink (a hero in the sense that he opposes the literal Adolf Hitler) tries to get Hitler fired by showing his dog-shooting footage on live television, but that only succeeds in freeing Hitler up to write a new book, which instantly becomes a bestseller and redeems his image. Meanwhile, Sensenbrink fails to maintain the ratings that his company got while Hitler was still on-air, forcing him to begrudgingly work with Hitler again and making him far more popular than before.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Averted. Since the movie takes place in the modern day, Hitler briefly explains the world since 1945, refers to Angela Merkel as "a clumsy woman with the charisma of a wet noodle" and Social Democratic Party leader Sigmar Gabriel as an "obnoxious fatso" (without naming them, though showing photos and videos). However, it's played straight for other world leaders. Witzigmann dresses up as Barack Obama as part of the show "Whoa, Dude!" but Hitler offers no commentary on that fact, other than mentioning "black U.S. president" as one of the costumes Witzigmann dons during his show.
  • Only Sane Man:
    • Deconstructed with Sawatzki. After he finds out the truth about TV-Hitler and that he in fact is the real Adolf Hitler. Naturally, nobody believes him and he ends up in a psych ward because everyone now believes that he is the insane one.
    • Played Straight with an unnamed TV employee who calls out Bellini for giving Hitler a platform to spew his hateful speeches. After getting a slap for his trouble, he responds by calling Bellini what she's become: Hitler's second Goebbels. Unlike Sawatzki, who only turns against Hitler after discovering that he's the genuine article, this unnamed character has been against Hitler from the start but is too powerless to do anything about it.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Krömeier's grandma is senile and apathetic, but seeing Hitler wakes her out of her stupor and she becomes alarmed and angry that Hitler is back. Actually justified in that senile people forget their lives backwards, and remember their youths better and better, and Hitler looks exactly as he did back then.
  • Perky Goth: Vera Krömeier. Her friends claim their manner of dress is because they're Satanists.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Sensenbrink opposes Hitler's rise less out of moral fortitude and more because it becomes the project of his rival Katja Bellini. He's quick to try and get Hitler back when the network's ratings tank after he forces Hitler off the air.
  • Recursive Reality: In the end, the movie becomes increasingly vague whether you're actually watching the "real" events, Hitler's retelling of the event's in his book, the movie that was made In-Universe or something else entirely.
  • Replacement Goldfish: Subtle, but in the ending, Vera is seen trying and failing to get the attention of the actor who plays Sawatzki in the in-universe movie, with the real Sawatzki already institutionalized following his outburst against Hitler.
  • Shout-Out:
    • There's a shot for shot recreation of the infamous "Hitler rants" scene from Downfall (which was produced by the same company, Constantin Film). Only this time it's Sensenbrink who has a fit of anger and not Hitler. A brief glimpse of the scene itself shows up earlier, where Hitler learns of the Hitler imitators that showed up in his absence.
    • A couple to well known Time Travel movies: Sawatzki is dressed very similarly to Marty McFly's iconic appearance, and from what little we see of Hitler materializing in contemporary Germany, it's similar to the T-800 appearing in modern day.
    • When Hitler is googling "world domination", one of the images that appear on screen is a picture of Pinky and the Brain.
    • The film Book Ends with two music pieces that were heard in A Clockwork Orange, namely the overture of Gioachino Rossini's Thieving Magpie at the beginning when Hitler awakens in Berlin, and Henry Purcell's Funeral Sentences and Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary at the very end with the montage of populist parties and anti-Islam demonstrations. What's more, one of the trailers featured a quick montage of scenes and one-word inter-titles with Rossini's William Tell's overture playing, just like one of the old trailers of A Clockwork Orange did back in the day (that piece was used for a sex scene in the 1971 film, besides).
  • Show Within a Show: Hitler is making a movie on his experiences after waking up in modern Germany.
  • Silence Is Golden: Hitler thinks this. Just before his first very successful speech on television, Hitler keeps silent for a sizable moment, disparaging in his head how the current media want to drown the audience in noise. Well timed, it helps him create expectation and interest from the public he's speaking to.
  • The Sociopath: Guess who. To the point that, when he sees Sawatzki looking somber after the confrontation with Krömeier's grandmother, he instantly assumes it's because he wasn't hard enough on her, and that Sawatzki only just realized that his girlfriend was Jewish.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: Hitler seems fond of waiting just out of shot before abruptly introducing himself.
  • Strawman News Media: The German TV, newspapers and even Internet community all give a lot of attention to Hitler, praising his messages and not quite getting that his attire isn't for show, it's the real deal. However, individuals like some writers and anchormen do point out that Hitler is getting dangerously popular and Adored by the Network just because he's a seller.
  • Title Drop: Hitler's first appearance on television in the movie is announced by the anchorman Michael Witzigmann with the sentence "Er ist wieder da!".
  • Unreliable Narrator: Hitler pens Er Ist Wieder Da at the start of the third act, which may explain why certain events in the book are so different from the ones we see depicted in the film.
  • Villainous Breakdown: The movie version of Hitler and Sensenbrink experience this. The former when footage of him shooting a dog is made public, seemingly ruining his career and the latter when the lack of Hitler on his television line-up causes it to crumble.
  • Villain Has a Point: Deconstructed. Hitler listens to the problems the citizens have and loudly points out the flaws of modern society on television. The problem is that the people begin to respect him because of his unapologetic criticism, forgetting his other opinions. At the end, Hitler has a shot at politics again because people know he has a point.
  • Villains Blend in Better: Chillingly portrayed. Although he's not trying to hide who he is - quite the opposite actually - Hitler does find the 21st century to ultimately be quite to his liking.
  • Villains Never Lie: About being who he is, Hitler never does. He's all for using television and the internet for propaganda purposes though. The film plays this to even more chilling effect, when Sawatzki comes to the realization that Hitler is the genuine article. Sawatzki confronts Hitler at gunpoint, accusing him of trying to trick people with his propaganda, just like he did back in the 1930s. Hitler replies with cold bemusement that he never tricked or conned anyone back in the day; he was completely open about what his policies and goals were, and everyone who voted for him knew exactly what he was about.
  • What Year Is This?: Hitler tries to ask a woman this, and gets maced. He stumbles to a newspaper stand and realizes that it's 2014, nearly 70 years into the future from what he last remembered.
  • Worthy Opponent: Hitler laments the state of the current, modern Social Democratic Party, remarking that the SDP of his time during the 1920s and '30s was led by the likes of Paul Löbe, Friedrich Ebert, and Otto Wels, who were, in Hitler's words, "All scoundrels... but scoundrels of stature!" By contrast, he calls the SDP leader in 2014, Sigmar Gabriel, "an obnoxious fatso."
  • You Monster!: At the end of the film, once Sawatzki knows that Hitler is the genuine article, he calls him a monster. Hitler throws it back in his face, arguing that if he is to be considered a monster, then so must the people who voted for him.

Alternative Title(s): Er Ist Wieder Da