‘Jojo Rabbit’ is One of the Strangest Adaptations Ever – Here’s How It Differs From the Book

/Film | 10/22/2019 | Leigh Monson
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Adaptation, by its very nature, is transformative. A screenwriter must necessarily make changes to another form of written work in order for that work to function in the medium of film. Fans of the original work will often judge the value of the adaptation by fidelity to the source material, judging a film by how much it adheres to the story beats, tone, and even specific dialogue that they remember and appreciate from the work they grew to love in the first place. But sometimes the adaptational process subjects the original work to such transformative pressures that it’s barely recognizable.

Take, for instance, Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit. Ostensibly, Waititi adapted the screenplay from a novel by Christine Leunens titled Caging Skies, but if you’re familiar with the kinds of films Waititi makes, Caging Skies seems like an exceedingly odd choice to inspire this particular filmmaker. Most notably, Caging Skies is a very, very bleak story. It is so bleak, in fact, that even though the book jacket for the recent U.S. printing describes the story as “darkly comic,” that darkness is so stifling that I struggle to understand why anyone would think it’s remotely funny. And yet, when you look at Jojo Rabbit, the bones of this story are still there, even if radically altered to serve different ends.

Post - Spoilers - Jojo - Rabbit

This post contains spoilers for Jojo Rabbit.

Waititi’s film follows a **** boy named Jojo growing up in World War II-era Germany. Jojo lives with his mother, as his father went off to fight in the war and never returned, and he participates in the Hitler Youth. Acting as a surrogate father is Jojo’s imaginary friend, a wildly flamboyant and childish personification of Hitler himself as portrayed by Waititi. Jojo is overtaken by nationalistic fervor for his country, much to his mother’s concern, which...
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