Hi there, I would really appreciate any feedback on my Jojo Rabbit visual text essay. No worries if this is too late, just thought I would give it a go! Thank you
A skilful director or creator carefully creates discomfort in the audience
Films set in World War II typically depict the atrocities inflicted onto the Jewish race, centering on the harrowing hate crimes that were carried out by Nazis. Jojo Rabbit, directed by Taika Waititi, subverts this norm by utilising satire to ridicule the extremist views of the German Nazi Party. The film follows the journey of Jojo Betzler, a naive 10-year-old Hitler fanatic, as he navigates the harsh reality of extremism, eventually overcoming the obstacles of propaganda and brainwashing to grow into an accepting, altruistic character. Waititi has skilfully crafted moments of discomfort throughout the film, which take the viewer on a rollercoaster of emotions as we experience Jojo’s difficult and heartbreaking moments alongside him.
Waititi has created a tense viewing experience during the scene in which Jojo discovers Elsa, a young Jewish girl hiding in the attic. The scene begins with Jojo bravely venturing upstairs to investigate noises that he heard. Tense music that gradually builds in volume plants the seed of suspicion in the viewer’s mind, as we ask the question - what will Jojo discover? Lighting and cinematography work hand-in-hand to reveal Elsa. A panning shot slowly reveals a foot. The camera then pans upwards, following the light of Jojo’s torch, to reveal Elsa’s face. The action in the scene then increases significantly as Jojo screams and runs out of the room, tumbling down the stairs. A close-up shot of Elsa’s fingers trailing down the stair-rail portrays her in a monster-like way, just as the anti-semitist propaganda brainwashed the young Nazis to believe. The false facade of bravery established earlier in the film, where Jojo announced “If I saw a Jew, I would kill it like that” is immediately dismantled, and he is clearly terrified. We then see his inner conflict of what action to take, as Elsa reminds him of the likely consequences of reporting her to the Gestapo. “Go on, tell them. But do you know what happens if you do? I’ll tell them you helped me, and your mother, too. Then we’ll all be kaput.” As viewers, we are forced to toss up the options at the same time as Jojo. We see him battle with his inner conflict - as a dedicated young Nazi, the only option should be to report Elsa, but how could he put his mother in danger? Through this, the director manipulates the emotions of the viewers as we experience Jojo’s dilemma, simultaneously. The skilful combination of techniques evokes an emotional response of suspense, shock and unease for the audience in order to help us understand that Jojo is weaker than he parades himself to be - after all, he is only a child.
Discomfort in the form of anxiety is skilfully created by Taika Waititi during the Gestapo Interrogation scene. During WWII, Gestapo raids were carried out when there was suspicion of any person disobeying the authoritarian control of the Nazi Party. It is understandable, then, that the audience would be worried when we see the Gestapo arrive to raid Jojo and Rosie’s (Jojo’s mother) house. The moment begins with Jojo opening the door to reveal a group of five Gestapo Agents. High angle camera shots are used when we see Jojo’s worried face, contrasting with low angle camera shots when we see the Gestapo, who are tall and dominant. The purpose of this is to provide understanding of the power imbalance and divide between the two sides. Chaos then ensues - papers are flung about and drawers are removed from furniture as the men ruthlessly search for any evidence of betrayal. Captain Deertz, the leader of the group, mentions what they are searching for. “The Goldilocks…Sneaking around, eating other people’s food, sleeping in their beds. It really is quite rude.” It is at this point that a foreboding feeling is instilled in the viewer, as we know that Elsa could be caught. Suddenly, she appears, dressed in pristine clothing, claiming to be Jojo’s dead sister. The feeling of dread continues as they question her, however, the height of tension is when they request her papers. Uneasy music emphasises both Jojo and Elsa’s worry, coupled with slow, zooming shots that center on Jojo’s worrisome facial expression. The release of tension arrives when Elsa states the birthday on the papers, however, this is immediately heightened once more as Captain Deertz’s booming voice announces “Wait…”, and he reaches towards the papers. A pause is cleverly implemented to keep the audience on the edge of their seats. To our relief, he reaches past the papers and picks up Jojo’s humorous, self-written book, an expose on Jews. The director of the film has taken us on a rollercoaster of emotions throughout this scene - it is an endless tug of war between worry and relief. This ensures that we feel connected to the characters of Jojo and Elsa, as we know that their very lives are in danger at this moment in the text.
The audience experiences heartbreak at a defining moment in the text. Jojo wanders through the town square, which we see is drained of colour. Soft, hopeful piano music can be heard in the background. These aspects create clear contrast with the rest of the movie up until that point. The careful use of these techniques subtly indicates that something unusual is about to occur, but we are clueless as to what. A bright, blue butterfly appears beside Jojo. This immediately stands out to the viewer due to the dull, blurred background. This brings us a moment of joy during a seemingly idle scene as we watch Jojo smile and follow the butterfly as he walks forward. The camera pans upwards as the butterfly flies out of the shot, revealing red shoes hanging in mid-air next to Jojo. These shoes have already been established as a motif throughout the film - there were multiple moments where the cinematography focused solely on Rosie walking along walls, with her shoes centered in each of the shots. Thus, we immediately recognise these shoes as Rosie’s. The director provides us with a moment for the terror to set in, before Jojo turns towards the shoes and realises that his mother is dead. In doing so, the audience deeply connects with Jojo’s shock and grief. Throughout the text, we see Jojo grow as a person and learn to accept Elsa, despite being in the difficult environment of war and being taught hatred.
Waititi purposefully projects the uncomfortable emotions of tension, shock and grief onto the audience to assist us in connecting with the characters and their difficult experiences. The numerous moments of discomfort throughout the film are universal experiences that are shared by all viewers. Therefore, our reaction mirrors that of Jojo’s as we can understand his pain and uncertainty. “Let everything happen to you; beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final.” - Rilke. This quote is the final ode on the screen, which enforces the director’s key message. Though we may experience discomfort in life, we must keep going, for these are the defining moments that make us who we are.