Germany's first Hitler comedy proves to be no laughing matter

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The Independent Online

The first German attempt at a film comedy about Adolf Hitler opened to almost universal criticism yesterday with commentators and cinema-goers dismissing the movie as a vulgar and embarrassing flop which failed to make audiences laugh.

Mein Führer: The Truly Truest Truth About Adolf Hitler by the Jewish director Dani Levy was meant to be Germany's long-awaited answer to film satires about the Nazi leader such as Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator or To Be or Not to Be by Ernst Lubitsch.

The production was intended to show that today's generation of Germans were able to laugh about Hitler. But as Mein Führer went on general release at cinemas in Germany, critics were united in their condemnation of the film.

The actor who plays the part of Hitler in the production even admitted he didn't find the movie amusing. "It didn't excite me much. Having seen the final cut, I don't find it funny," said Helge Schneider.

Harald Peters, a film critic for Germany's Welt am Sonntag newspaper, concluded: "The drama is inconsistent and most of the jokes are flat, harmless or stale." Moviegoers leaving Berlin's Cinemaxx cinema yesterday were equally critical. "This was supposed to be a comedy?" said Marion Schmidbauer, a teacher. "I only managed to laugh twice during the entire film." Noel Hauser, a 16-year-old student, said: "It didn't make me laugh and it didn't teach me anything I didn't already know about Hitler."

Mein Führer portrays Hitler as a bed-wetting drug addict, who dresses his pet Alsatian dog Blondi in a Nazi SS uniform and proves incapable of sexually gratifying his mistress, Eva Braun. The plot begins at the end of 1944 with a desperate Hitler who has lost all faith in his ability to inspire the German people. Joseph Goebbels, the propaganda minister, recruits a Jewish actor called Adolf Israel Grünbaum from a concentration camp to train the dictator for a rally. The job gives Grünbaum and his family respite from the concentration camps.

Viewers are, however, treated to some genuinely humorous incidents: one in which Hitler is forced to bark like a dog, provoking a sexual advance from Blondi, and another when the Führer's make-up artist accidentally shaves off half of his moustache.

Levysaid he was resigned to the criticism. "This is not a consensus movie, I know that," he said. "Whenever you touch on this subject in Germany, you are immediately on the edge of good taste."

Dieter Graumann, the deputy leader of Germany's Central Council of Jews, said he would not watch the film. "I come from a family that endured the Holocaust," he said. "I simply cannot laugh when Hitler and the Holocaust are made the subject of a comedy."

In a poll for Stern magazine, 56 per cent of those questioned thought that it was wrong to make a comedy about Hitler.