Taika Waititi's Interview About Quarantine, Jojo Rabbit, Humor And Hitler

Taika Waititi's Interview About Quarantine, Jojo Rabbit, Humor And Hitler
Taika Waititi's Interview About Quarantine, Jojo Rabbit, Humor And Hitler

Video: Taika Waititi's Interview About Quarantine, Jojo Rabbit, Humor And Hitler

Video: Taika Waititi's Interview About Quarantine, Jojo Rabbit, Humor And Hitler
Video: Taika Waititi On JoJo Rabbit: Can Hitler Be Funny? | SYFY WIRE 2023, March

On May 4, the day of Star Wars, it became known that Taika Waititi would direct the next film in the saga, so there were more reasons to talk with the director, screenwriter and actor. There were, however, quite a few of them. The pseudo-documentary project “What Are We Doing in the Shadows,” successfully reformatted from film to series, the international success of Jojo Rabbit, which included Oscar and BAFTA awards, the upcoming filming of the new Thor, are just a few examples. Waititi, by his own admission, is not used to sitting still, and there is evidence of this. RBC Style correspondent Nelly Holmes spoke with the director about the origins of his peculiar humor and work on the role of the fictional Hitler, as well as about painting, life in Berlin and new projects.

- Let's start our conversation with a question that is still relevant for the whole world. How do you spend your time in quarantine?

- My main occupation at the moment is teaching my daughters at home. I try to take care of myself and others - this is especially important now. And sometimes I manage to get a haircut even in quarantine. (Laughs.)

Photo: instagram.com/taikawaititi
Photo: instagram.com/taikawaititi

© instagram.com/taikawaititi/

- What are you at home? Do your daughters love your jokes, for example?

- Some of my kids love some of my jokes. Rather, they like to break off and pin me. They don't care what I do for a living, for them I am just a dad. And I like coming home, playing with children, talking to them, drawing, fooling around. What difference does it make to what is happening in the outside world and who is striving for what, at home we are all on the same level. I think I'm a good dad. And a good cook.

- Do you have a signature dish?

- I divinely make mutton. I'm from New Zealand, so I just have to cook good lamb. But for children, I usually cook vegetables with some kind of light protein. They don't like spices or sauces - they like simple food with lots of oil and carbohydrates.

- Since we're talking about children. The protagonist of your movie "Jojo Rabbit" is a ten-year-old boy who believes in the ideas imposed on him. Children, as you know, do not know how to hate by nature - this feeling is always born of the environment. How can they develop empathy and acceptance of others?

- I think it's very simple. If you yourself are a good kind person, your children will certainly want to be like you. In my film, I wanted to show how important it is to be tolerant of those who are different from you, how important it is to accept people, build bridges instead of burning them. I like living in a multicultural world - I want it to stay that way. After all, this is terribly boring: to suddenly find yourself in a country where only people of one specific type live with one specific version of culture and ideology. We are all equal, but we are all different - and this must be constantly remembered. We all want to eat well, have a roof over our heads, love and be happy - and each of us has an inalienable right to all of this. But we do not have to be the same either externally, internally, or culturally. To convey these thoughts, I use the language of cinema. For instance,the dialogues in Jojo Bunny are deliberately made very modern - I wanted the current generation to see my film and understand it as closely as possible to what I wanted to say. Of course, I know that in 1940 people didn't say that, I'm not an idiot. I deliberately use today's vocabulary so that the viewer captures the relevance of the story, regardless of the era. For exactly the same purpose, modern music is also involved: I want every viewer to subconsciously understand that such a plot is possible today, although we consider ourselves very developed and wiser on the mistakes of the past. I deliberately use today's vocabulary so that the viewer captures the relevance of the story, regardless of the era. For exactly the same purpose, modern music is also involved: I want every viewer to subconsciously understand that such a plot is possible today, although we consider ourselves very developed and wiser on the mistakes of the past. I deliberately use today's vocabulary so that the viewer captures the relevance of the story, regardless of the era. For exactly the same purpose, modern music is also involved: I want every viewer to subconsciously understand that such a story is possible today, although we consider ourselves very developed and wiser on the mistakes of the past.

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Shot from the movie "Jojo Rabbit"
Shot from the movie "Jojo Rabbit"

Shot from the movie "Jojo Rabbit" © imdb

- The plot of this film, which continues to be heatedly discussed both in Russia and in the world, is based on the book "Bird in a Cage" by Christine Lenens. What was your first impression after you finished reading it? Did you decide to shoot a film right away?

- The book is much darker than my film. I have added some elements that are not in the book. For example, the protagonist's fictional friend, Adolf Hitler, is completely invented by me. In addition, I added humor, which was not observed in the original either. For the first time I heard about this story in 2010 from my mother: she was just reading Lenens's novel and was sharing with me the main plot twists. She said that this is a story about a boy who never met Jews and considered them terrible monsters, because everyone around him said so. And then suddenly it turned out that such a "monster" lives in his house, and the story of recognition and acceptance of the fact that the "monster" is the same person as the boy Johannes began. I liked the idea - I remembered it and implemented it years later, adding my own accents. It's a subtle blend of dramatouching emotional history and light humor - and this is exactly what happens to each of us from day to day. We all live somewhere on the verge of comedy, tragedy and horror - and I wanted to show the human ability to balance.

We do not have to be the same, neither externally, nor internally, nor culturally.

- Are you ready for the fact that some may not understand your sense of humor?

- I think those who do not understand me right away will understand after some time. It may even take some years for someone to understand the humor inherent in the film, but eventually everyone will understand it. I am not one of those who seeks to shock the public or force them to talk about myself at all costs. I admit that my work provokes discussions, but, believe me, I do nothing on purpose to provoke or support them. I am a storyteller - I tell stories and use every tool I have. For me, comedy is the strongest weapon against fanaticism and dictatorship. Eighty years ago, in The Great Dictator, Chaplin showed us the effect of a comedic statement on the most complex subject of fascism. I would even say that there is a whole tradition of combating hatred and intolerance with the help of humor. If it seems to someonethat it is not yet time to joke about fascism and genocide, I disagree. And I am in a good company of dissent - at least here I and Chaplin.

Photo: instagram.com/taikawaititi
Photo: instagram.com/taikawaititi

© instagram.com/taikawaititi/

Where did your sense of humor come from and how did it develop?

“It’s a family one,” my relatives joke. My father is Maori. This indigenous people of New Zealand survived for many years under the yoke of the British colonialists. And my mother is from Russian Jews who managed to escape at the very beginning of the 1900s and settle in other countries, such as New Zealand. Both of my parents represent peoples who had to survive, prove their right to equality, had to learn to laugh in the face of problems and dangers. Without a sense of humor, it was impossible to survive in the conditions in which Jews and Maori survived. Also my humor is a little German. For three years I lived in Berlin, in the Prenzlauer Berg district. Then I wanted to become an artist, and Berlin seemed to me the perfect place to fulfill this desire. So, the Germans are known to many, but certainly not for their sense of humor, but they have it and, moreover, fantastic. When you live in Germany, you begin to understand German humor, to see meaning and beauty in it. Rather, it is black humor based on deep observation. My humor is also based on the desire to get into the essence of things, to study all the nuances, ask a million "why" questions and emphasize some specific features.

In Jojo the Rabbit, Hitler is a comic character. And I especially felt this when I first saw myself in a suit and makeup. It's one thing to describe a character on paper, and another thing to really see yourself in the image. This costume, this hairstyle, this idiotic mustache - isn't Hitler comical? I was even somewhat ashamed of my stupid clown appearance. But I had to manage the actors on the set, and in the image of Hitler it turned out to be extremely difficult: the actors did not listen to me, but simply looked at Hitler talking to them with detachment. I ended up changing my clothes several times a day and being either a director or an actor playing a fictional friend of the hero. It was important for me not to create a historical portrait of the Fuhrer, because in fact I was not playing Hitler, but a ten-year-old boy in the body of an adult. All the knowledge of my character is the knowledge of little Johannes, in whose head he was born. I didn't want to dissect Hitler as a historical person, I didn't want to pay even the slightest attention to him. That is why I decided to play him in the film myself.

- Could you compare your humor with someone else's? Maybe, say, Wes Anderson's style is comparable to yours?

- Oh Wes, I love his films! But I think my humor is a little different. I grew up in New Zealand, and there we have a special kind of humor - "down to earth comedy." In New Zealand, there are not many activities other than tree-watching (laughs), so every day I had to find funny in the surrounding reality. We get used to constantly looking at boring objects and talking, talking and talking about them until it becomes funny. Then we talk about them until it gets bored again, so that after a while the conversations become fun again. It's a never-ending process - and this is a special New Zealand comedy. And, of course, I was influenced by the humorous TV shows that were shown in the 80s when I was growing up. The great show "Fawlty Towers", sitcoms "The Younger Generation" and "Black Viper",and also "Damn Service at Mash Hospital" - this mixture of British and American comedy on New Zealand television was relevant in my childhood. Perhaps British humor influenced and influences New Zealand more than American.

Photo: instagram.com/taikawaititi
Photo: instagram.com/taikawaititi

© instagram.com/taikawaititi/

- Which of the cultures in which you grew up in your family is closer to you?

- I was born in New Zealand in a town with a very strong indigenous community, so the Maori culture is still closer to me. But I also celebrate Hanukkah with my mother.

- At the end of March, the second season of What Are We Doing In The Shadows, a comedy series stylized as a documentary chronicle about the life of four vampires on Staten Island, was released. This is an absolutely different show. How did this combination come about?

- “What are we doing in the shadows” is a mixture of another reality show and another story about vampires. It would seem that we are sick and tired of both the first and the second, but we have so cleverly combined these sore genres that we have got a completely new product. I've always been a huge fan of Christopher Guest's films: Show Winners, This Is Spinal Tap! - it was at this level of comedy that we were guided. Plus I loved the idea of making a documentary about what documentary films cannot exist by definition. We took a bunch of vampires, put them in an apartment and began to observe: how they pay for utilities, how they eat, how they clean up after themselves, how they communicate - and from this disposition the series was born.

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- The series, like its original source, your film of the same name, is an excellent entertaining show. But if you dig deeper, it also reveals social issues such as gender …

- You understand correctly. Vampires live in the shadows, on the outskirts, they are afraid to go out - they figuratively represent illegal immigrants, people from the LGBTQ community, those who were bullied at school, those who have no place in society. It may even seem to someone that it is great to be a vampire: an endless life and the opportunity to be outside a cruel society. But in addition to seeming independence, such a life means the impossibility of having friends, the impossibility of being where you want, and when you want, much breaks off the pleasure of enjoying eternity. And separately it is necessary to say about boredom: the more you live, the less the world surprises you - imagine how boring it is to live for a hundred, two hundred, five hundred years. We are very lazy by nature. We say to ourselves: “I want to learn to play the piano - I’m starting tomorrow” - and we don’t start. We do not start a week, a year, five years. Now imagine how long you can put off something when you know that you have hundreds of thousands of years ahead of you.

There are two characters in the show - Laszlo and Nadia. They have been married for several centuries. They are so overcome with boredom that they are ready to kill each other. But they are forced to be together, because ultimately no one in the world will recognize and understand them as they know and understand each other. We reveal all these nuances in the show so that viewers can look at their lives from the outside. We hypertrophy to make things clearer. By the way, I really like that all our actors are British. This makes it possible to make more prominent features of different cultures - American and European. There are many things in American society that locals take for granted, but seem strange quirks to foreigners - this is also fun to play.

Scene from the film "What are we doing in the shadows"
Scene from the film "What are we doing in the shadows"

Shot from the film "What are we doing in the shadows" © imdb

- You said that you lived in Berlin for three years, when you were actively engaged in painting. Why did you choose this particular city? And what was your life like then?

- Life in the Prezlauer Berg area in the late 90's was harsh. This is the eastern part of Berlin. There was no water in the taps; they had to carry coal in bags on their own in order to warm the room, igniting it. But I liked it! It was as unlike my life in New Zealand as possible. I always wanted to leave the island and certainly to Europe. I then selflessly indulged in painting - I was engaged in it for almost 30 years and only then turned towards cinema.

- What direction of painting attracted you the most?

- Figurative art. I painted in oils and watercolors. I was inspired by great artists, and my move to Europe is, of course, a desire to be closer to them. In principle, I did not want to go to Paris - simply because everyone came there. And East Berlin, with its filth, disorder and spirit of rebellion, suited me very much. There I made some really close friends who are still present in my life.

- Are you drawing now?

- Mostly graphics. I'm too lively person to spend a few hours at an easel - it's easier for me to draw posters now.

- Do you think that little Jojo lives in every growing up person?

“I think so, Jojo was in each of us. And I was. At some point in our growing up, we all come across someone who is insignificant, poorer, more powerless, persecuted and despised. This can be a member of any national minority or simply the weakest child in school. Subconsciously, we even strive to find someone less and more pitiful than us, so as not to find ourselves in this place. There is always someone who seems strange and completely different, we all came across such peers when we grew up. And each of us learned our lesson. My lesson is that being different is incredibly cool.

- A scene in which everyone as a greeting says: "Heil, Hitler" - and they repeat it so many times that it becomes funny …

“This is my way of showing how absurd the Nazis and their strange rules are. I would say this scene is made in the style of "Monty Python" - it seems to me that they would have laughed at the Third Reich and its ritual that way. When I was writing the script, I thought: "Should there have been people in government posts in Germany at that time to greet everyone in a row with the same phrase?" After all, if so, it means that they spent a lot of time on it and probably did not have time to finish important matters. Even at the moment when their whole regime is going to hell, these people consider it important to observe their silly rituals. What is constantly repeated is bound to become funny one day. I laughed at the ritualism and ritual of the Reich, at its excessive fixation on the outside.

Subconsciously, we even strive to find someone less and more pitiful than us, so as not to find ourselves in this place.

- Were you worried when you played Hitler? Weren't you afraid that you will make it too cute?

- I studied many sources, including German ones. Of course, I didn’t want to make the Nazis cute at all, but I know for sure that individual German soldiers, like Rockwell (one of the heroes of the film. - "RBC Style"), for example, deep inside could very well have been nice guys. I like to imagine that until 1933 the same Rockwell was a passionate and carefree young man, perhaps even a regular at the Kit Kat Club (a club for frivolous entertainment in Berlin during the Weimar Republic, described in Christopher Isherwood's novel Farewell Berlin and based on this novel, the musical by John Kander "Cabaret" - "RBC Style"), but he had to forget about his reckless youth. I want to emphasize one thing: the need to explain a joke destroys the joke itself. If you have to tell me why it’s funny, it’s witty, and it’s brilliant,you permanently deprive your interlocutor of the opportunity to understand the artist and his work for himself. I do not want to explain to my viewer in advance where I have laughter and irony and what is my personal attitude towards the Nazis, I want him to understand me by looking at the picture. And if he understands me, he will understand that my Nazis are not at all attractive.

Shot from the movie "Jojo Rabbit"
Shot from the movie "Jojo Rabbit"

Shot from the movie "Jojo Rabbit" © imdb

- And what about Hitler himself: were you worried about taking on this role?

- No, I didn't. After all, I didn’t play Hitler, but a character invented by a boy, who just had the same mustache and the same funny costume as the Fuhrer. I must admit that I always wanted to be an enfant terrible in cinema: someone who is not afraid to go ahead, go too far, mix the incompatible - all for the sake of a good story.

- In your opinion, can we talk about any parallels between Hitler and the world of modern politicians?

- What an inelegant question! I don't know who exactly resembles Hitler, but today in politics there are definitely the same clowns that I played in my cinema.

- Who, for example?

- You ask vague questions - I will give vague answers. My way of talking to the world and expressing my own thoughts is comedy, which, among other things, I consider the most effective tool in the fight against any fanaticism and ideas questionable for humanity. At all times, aggressors and dictators were most afraid of being ridiculed, because it seems like if they laugh, then they do not take it seriously. Now in world politics there is one guy about whom you can make an excellent comedy. He is so worried about being laughed at that he may well drop his direct duties as president of a huge country in order to write an angry post on Twitter. After all, you need to shut up every actor or TV presenter who publicly doubted his adequacy, respond to him on Twitter and be sure that he has defended his authority. And other things will wait - the main thing is not to laugh.

I had to manage the actors on the set, and in the image of Hitler it turned out to be extremely difficult: the actors did not listen to me, but simply looked at Hitler talking to them with detachment.

- Do you like it when you are recognized and approached to express their respect?

“There are only three things for which I’m ready to interrupt my sleep: a fire siren, a Golden Globe nomination and an Oscar nomination. In all other cases, it is better not to disturb me.

- I know you are a big Star Wars fan …

- Oh yeah! I'm not just a fan, I've always dreamed of working on this or a similar project. Therefore, I was happy to participate in the creation of one episode of "The Mandalorian" and was really happy to be on the same site with the Imperial stormtroopers.

- And now both you and us are waiting for new impressions in this universe. I mean the news that you are making a movie in the saga.

- This is my dream come true. Being part of the Star Wars universe is happiness for me. The first episode of the saga that I saw was episode 4, and the most significant episode for me was the episode "The Empire Strikes Back". I know that George Lucas did a lot of research while writing this part, and in particular he studied the psychology of parent-child relationships. Empire Strikes Back is for me the most spiritually rich film with the deepest inherent idea that maximum concentration of power is required to give up your ego. And in general, the way Lucas shows the strength of the spirit, how he talks about the nature of strength in general - I am fascinated by his way of thinking and revealing serious philosophical topics through fictional creatures, their spaceships and all this magic.

Photo: instagram.com/taikawaititi
Photo: instagram.com/taikawaititi

© instagram.com/taikawaititi/

- What are you working on right now?

- I finished the first draft of the script for the next film about Thor. Soon I will start shooting a movie with Michael Fassbender. It will be a film about island football - this is such a non-obvious topic. I will do this picture with Searchlight - I love working with this film company. I'm a little worried - after all, Pacific island football is not the most popular topic in the world. But I even like this excitement. I am glad that I have never repeated myself in any of my work. I like to believe that my best job is ahead, because if it's behind, then my career slowly fades into decline. Therefore, I am not afraid to take risks, take on difficult topics, go beyond. I love David Bowie's words about creativity. He was asked what the creation process is, and he replied that it is akin to how when you go into the ocean, your feet disappear. And then you move on,and the water gets higher and higher, and now you no longer know if there is a bottom under your feet. It is at this moment that you create your best works - when there is no ground under your feet, and you are immersed in an unsettling unknown.

- People sometimes say about you that you are a Renaissance man. What does this mean in your case?

“The Renaissance man in my incarnation is one who does a million things, but none of them does well. Someone who is too lazy to focus on something specific and become a virtuoso in it. I don't have attention deficit disorder, but I really get carried away with many things easily. While doing a project, I want to dive into all its aspects, including those that I had no idea about yesterday. Therefore, I am permanently busy with something: I am sprayed on hundreds of different things and want to be involved in everything that is significant and bright.

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