Feedback for Visual Text Essay

Hi can I please get feedback for my visual text essay and whether it would be graded an Excellence.

Question: Analyse how language features (film techniques) were used to develop a
significant idea

Jojo Rabbit, directed by Taika Waititi, satirises Nazi Germany from the perspective of a ten-year-old boy named Jojo. The significant idea presented is that a hypercharged nationalism leads to an unthinking acceptance and a loss of freedom in its citizens, because of the false propaganda that supports it. Camera movement, non-diegetic music, and framing are key film techniques used to show the dangers of aggressive nationalism.

Jojo, the film’s protagonist, is an ardent admirer of Hitler so that he regards him as his “best friend”. In truth, his imagined companion, the person who accompanies him wherever he goes is a farcical embodiment of the Nazi Party’s leader, Adolf Hitler. One of history’s most prominent villains serves as Jojo’s major source of inspiration and drive. This is established in the beginning of the film where Jojo is dressing and conversing with his imaginary hero. He is nervous about the training which he is about to undergo as a member of Hitler Youth. The camera zooms in on his little over-earnest face in a close-up shot as he spouts a litany of extravagant praises to his hero. Jojo has clearly been indoctrinated by government propaganda. A uniformed Hitler approaches Jojo in a subversive shot, though initially just the middle of his torso is visible. We immediately see that Hitler is being ridiculed by Waititi. The effect of the closeup is heightened further when Hitler’s body is revealed in segments. Because he is only gradually revealed as a whole person, he is presented as a figure of fun. The absurdity of the Führer is further heightened because of Jojo’s passionate admiration. The nationalism builds to a frenzied climax as we finally see Hitler’s face leaning over to his enthusiastic fan and encouraging him to perform the ‘Heil Hitler’ sign more effectively. Of course, Waititi is mocking Hitler for his insistence on protocol about such a minor gesture. Consequently, the director aims to sabotage the usual efficiency of the salute that we have seen in other films. However, the fact that Jojo is such an enthusiastic fan shows that he has been indoctrinated previously, because we are aware that this is not typical ten-year-old behaviour. It demonstrates how the power of propaganda particularly influences young minds. This is further reinforced as the film continues, because we see that the Nazis have a policy of brainwashing youth.

The protagonist’s mother, Rosie, demonstrates that not everyone has been fooled by the Nazi propaganda machine. She is completely aware of her son’s obsession for Hitler, but treats him tenderly, nonetheless. She is an active member of the Resistance group, and we see her posting anti-Nazi brochures around town with the message, “Free Germany.” Rosie’s persona exemplifies her anti-Nazi perception creating a rift between her and Jojo. We see this when Rosie dances courageously on a stone wall to express her thankfulness to God for life when she says, “Dancing is for people who are free. It’s an escape from all of this.” Rosie’s leather lace up shoes symbolise freedom because we see them constantly dancing, and the bright red colour connotes difference. They also come to symbolise her stance on the tyranny of fascism. Rosie’s jewel striking attire and shoes represent vibrant life and positivity, while Hitler’s supporters are all clad in dark uniforms. And even when her cherished son’s moral compass veers off course, she continues to love him unconditionally, refusing to give up hope. She represents how a mother’s love can hold a community together even when it is breaking at the seams. Rosie is a member of the Resistance in addition to harbouring a Jewish girl in her home. Despite her genuine affection for her son, she hopes that he will one day return to his senses and become a child again. This is always the dilemma of parents raising children in a totalitarian state. A recent documentary has shown Russians leaving for Georgia, at great economic loss, in order to bring up their children in a more open society. We feel that if Rosie were in a comparable situation, she would do what these brave Russians have done.

Waititi’s purpose is to reveal that love can overcome the hatred that was embodied in German nationalism under Hitler. Throughout the course of the film, we learn that Rosie is hanged by the Gestapo due to her affiliation with the Resistance. However, Jojo and Elsa, the Jewish girl his mother has hidden in the attic, are now able to leave the house together as Germany has been liberated by the American troops. By begrudgingly developing a friendship with Elsa, Jojo begins to question his fanaticism and eventually disavows Hitler and Nazism altogether. Near the end of the film when Jojo returns to Elsa, he initially lies and tells her that Germany has been victorious. This is done in the anticipation that she will be compelled to stay with him, despite the fact that he is aware that she was only ever there to avoid the Nazis. His bond with Elsa is the last significant relationship Jojo has after losing all of his immediate family. Jojo eventually takes Elsa out into her liberation when the good heart that gave him his nickname triumphs over these negative urges. We see this when Jojo and Elsa dance to non-diegetic music named Helden by David Bowie. This is significant because the lyrics of “We can be heroes for just one day” bring together the celebratory mood of war coming to an end. His dead mother, Jojo, Elsa, and the American forces are all heroes. The mid-shot of both characters demonstrates a bridging moment and, when they emerge into the daylight of the street, a transition has occurred. Elsa is silenced by the outdoors but, after Jojo tries one last lie in defence of Hitler, she slaps him into honesty – “I probably deserved that,” he says. This scene is an embodiment of acceptance by Jojo of the freedom previously espoused by Rosie in the dancing scene. He has eventually learnt his mother’s lesson which is that “Dancing is indeed for people who are free.”

Ultimately, the film serves as an allegory of the power of the human spirit to overcome the wicked excesses of the nationalism which has controlled Germany for all of Jojo’s life. His mother’s death has not been in vain, because Germany is now free. Jojo has become liberated from the tyranny of anti-Semitism and follows his mother’s steps by dancing for freedom with a Jewish girl whom he has now accepted wholeheartedly.

Kia ora Izzywizzy,

You’ve got a strong introduction, using the key words from the question and have structured it well. Another thing I quite like about this essay is that you’ve used sophisticated language in the way you describe things like “ardent admirer” and “farcical embodiment.” That makes it engaging to read.

Something which you could do more effectively is using the key words from the question throughout your body paragraphs, not just in the introduction and conclusion.

Phrases like “Waititi uses a close up shot…” show that you recognise the director made a specific choice in order to create a specific effect for the viewer.

When you’re using dialogue, it is important that you refer to it as dialogue e.g. “Waititi uses dialogue to emphasise…”

Take every opportunity to weave in film techniques. For example, what camera shot was used to show Rosie’s shoes? What camera movement followed Rosie as she danced on the wall? Show awareness of how a combination of techniques were used by Waititi to create specific effects.

Again, you’ve shown a great understanding of the text. You’ve just got to work on incorporating techniques more. This essay did have a clearer response to both parts of the question and is more balanced because of it.

Thanks for sharing :slight_smile:
Ngā mihi nui ki a koe.