Levy hoping to break taboos with Teutonic Hitler laffer
BERLIN — A Hitler comedy made in Germany?
It might seem tasteless, but “My Fuhrer” is now in post-production and will hit German auds in January amid a tidal wave of publicity — not all of it good.
Turning a historic demon into a comic figure has worked elsewhere, but what will Germans think of Hitler gags? Will the shamed country, which still feels pain six decades later, be able to chuckle at a fictional Fuhrer playing with toy battleships in a bathtub?
Swiss-born Jewish helmer Dani Levy and X-Filme topper Stefan Arndt are gambling that Germans are indeed ready to laugh about their horrific past and the madman at the center of it with “Mein Fuehrer — die wirklich wahrste Wahrheit ueber Adolf Hitler” (My Fuhrer — The Absolutely Truest Truth About Adolf Hitler).
“In this experimental age, everything’s allowed. Taboos can be broken and the boundaries of good taste violated as long as your conscience is on the good side,” Levy said of the farce, due out Jan. 4. “People will laugh watching it, but at the same time be shocked at themselves for laughing.”
The pic, which Levy also penned, is a fictional tale of a Jewish acting teacher named Adolf Gruenbaum (played by Ulrich Muehe), plucked from a concentration camp to coach the ailing Hitler for an important New Year’s speech.
Levy, 48, has already hit the jackpot shattering taboos.
He won six Lolas at the 2005 German Film Awards for his surprise B.O. hit “Go for Zucker: An Unorthodox Comedy” — even though it took him years and countless rejections to find backing for the laffer about an atheist East Berlin sports writer and his orthodox Jewish brother from West Germany who are forced to reconcile if they want their mother’s inheritance. It was the first comedy about Jews in Germany since the 1930s.
This time it was easier for Levy to find financing for an even bigger taboo-breaker: The Lolas helped Levy and co-producers Y Filme and X-Filme win $600,000 from Germany’s FAA (federal film board).
During filming, pic attracted plenty of attention — not all of it positive — when Levy shot a scene of 1,000 extras in front of Nazi flags. It confused tourists, scared local residents and got massive media coverage across Europe.
“A comedy about Hitler — is that artistically possible? And if so, is that moral?” gasped the Berliner Zeitung newspaper after the extras shouted “Heil Hitler,” gave stiff-armed Nazi salutes and waved small swastika flags — all criminal acts in Germany. A legal loophole for actors and educators prevented any arrests.
The hand-held swastika flags were numbered and carefully retrieved before anyone was allowed to leave.
“We don’t want you to get into trouble on the subway home,” joked one assistant. “And forget about everything that happened here.”
The film is billed as a parody not only of Hitler himself, who has been treated by most Germans as the epitome of evil, but also of recent German films showing a more human side of the dictator.
To show his film mocks a 2004 hit drama about Hitler, “Downfall,” Levy has included some of the actors who appeared in that film, which some critics bashed for showing Hitler’s human side as he calmly ate spaghetti or displayed affection for his dog.
“The sense of ‘verboten’ is the thread running through Levy’s Hitler comedy,” wrote Der Spiegel magazine. “In a society the media has over-satiated, you have to reach out and break the very last taboos these days to cause any kind of a stir.”