Writer/Director Taika Waititi describes Jojo’s mother... “Rosie’s a defiant woman who decides that so long as ideals of empathy and tolerance are being pushed to the margins, she will work fearlessly to uphold them.
Contrary to Jojo, she sees all too clearly the poisonous world Hitler is forging, so her natural response is to help, as she says, by “doing what she can”—which in her passionately practical way is a lot. But that also means hiding the truth of her life from Jojo to keep him safe, while hoping her little boy comes to his senses.”
Ra designed the entire house set[s] to flow one into another, to give flexibility for movement and camera, particularly for Taika’s improvisational style, allowing him and other actors to be inspired by and play off of anything.
Director of Photography Mihai Malaimare Jr considered it a gift. “The interior of the house was incredible for us. Ra’s sets were so rich that we could shoot in every direction and it was pure joy.”
A behind the scenes shot of the room being dressed. Note the missing lampshade, the pillows askew and no side table dressing at the moment. But more importantly, note the sofa designed and created for the room, the fabulous tray and the triple-paneled draperies...
The fantastical glass chandelier would take over a normal room, but this space has so much artful detail, the gorgeous statement piece simply anchors the room from above as the sofa does from below. Don’t miss the fireplace details!
Boldness of design and yet a comforting welcoming space. Pattern on pattern, strongly defined curved lines...and straight! Note the fabulous piece tucked in the corner, which became an inspiration for the room, and don’t miss the incredible doors and thickness of the walls of this stone house...
This is a working photo from the Art Department. You can see the actor tape marks and cord...
There are nature references/symbolic elements throughout the film. The butterfly, representing Rosie, is incorporated here subtly, in the wall-sized headboard of parquet and marquetry Ra designed, inspired by a unique Art Deco piece Nora had brought in. It had such an impact, he decided to bump out the wall behind it to create a niche which enhances both style and comfort.
A boy’s room invaded by Nazism. Ra points out that they kept the walls in a more subtle pattern, because, “Once you put a picture of Hitler or a Swastika on a wall, that’s pretty much all you see. We wanted to play up the incongruity of this vicious presence in a child’s room.”
Vital to Taika was creating all the Nazis in the film as ridiculous and mockable, but also human, full of all the same flaws and quirks as the rest of us—which makes their participation in the fascist realm that much more of a chilling warning of how easily malevolent ideologies can take root on a large scale.
This is especially true of Jojo, who initially reveres what he sees as Hitler’s might, until he sees in Elsa and his mother a principled strength that is so much greater.
Hidden deep within the lightness of the house is Elsa’s dark, cramped space behind the wall, which forges an opposite feeling, mirroring the nearly unbearable tension under which she is forced to live, until Jojo discovers her there one day...which in some ways, made it worse!
Rosie and Jojo face an abrupt reality, an example of Nazi brutality.
This scene was filmed in a village in the Czech Republic. Some of the townspeople found it surreal to have Swastikas hanging in their square after having gone through the actual Occupation during WWII, but they didn’t step away from the portrayal, they said it’s essential to never forget and never let happen again.
Taika notes, “It was important to me that Jojo be clearly seen as a 10-year-old-boy who really doesn’t know anything. He just basically loves the idea of dressing in a uniform and being accepted. That's how the Nazis indoctrinated kids, really, by making them feel part of this really cool gang.”
Here, Jojo’s mother takes a stand and tells the adults here that they were responsible for Jojo’s injuries, so they must look after him and make sure he is shown respect.
Nora found the perfect chair to visually represent Captain Klenzendorf, unlike anything one would expect in this setting.
Sam Rockwell discloses that Klenzendorf, who is at various times Jojo’s idol, nemesis and confidante, “Has more than one thing going on. He has his own secrets. For one thing, he’s a gay Nazi, which, though they existed, is not a phrase you hear very often.”
Oscar-winning composer Michael Giacchino says, “The first question I always ask is, ‘what feeling do you want people to walk away with from this movie?’ For me, that feeling was Jojo going from a closed-off, blinders-on attitude about the world to having his worldview smashed open to starting to see everything in a very different way. That was the inspiration...”
Visual effects supervisor Jason Chen reveals, “For most of the film, we’ve been in Jojo’s imagination, with his playful view of war, but when the battle hits the town, we’re suddenly struck with the reality of what war really is...”
“Here’s to putting an end to ignorance and replacing it with love.”
JOJO RABBIT is a World War II satire that follows a lonely German boy [Roman Griffin Davis as Jojo] whose world view is turned upside down when he discovers his single mother [Scarlett Johansson as Rosie] is hiding a young Jewish girl [Thomasin McKenzie as Elsa] in their attic. Aided only by his idiotic imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler [Taika Waititi], Jojo must confront his blind nationalism. In the end, as much as JOJO RABBIT showcases the tragically absurd realities of authoritarianism and nationalistic fervor, as well as the personal wages of prejudice and hate, the film equally reminds us of our human connection and the simple responsibility we all have to do what we can...including simply trying to be good to one another. --Searchlight Pictures
Production Designer Ra Vincent SDSA and Set Decorator Nora Sopková SDSA created incredible sets to not only frame but reveal the characters in this deeply humanistic tale of tolerance, hate and most importantly, love. Their work has quite rightly been recognized by multiple award nominations, including ADG, BAFTA and the Academy Awards.
As we mentioned in our coverage of the Oscar nominations – see Awards section – if you’re going to tell a seemingly impossible story, it’s best to find artistic souls who will equally embrace that experience.
So early on, Taika Waititi reached out to his friend and artist Ra Vincent, with whom he has worked on several projects.
Taika wanted a look for the film that was unexpected and filled with the spirit of childhood. Because the audience is seeing through the eyes of a 10-year-old, instead of the usual grayed-out colors of war-time films, Ra chose to have the film’s palette begin in rich, vibrant tones.
“At Jojo’s age things are a little more rosy-tinted and the world seems bigger and more amazing. So, we set out to try to re-create this feeling, but within 1940s Germany.”
We’ve included some of the details in the photo gallery above.
You’ll find below a sample of what Ra shares in the interview.
And then, as a postscript, a letter from Writer/Director Taika Waititi...
Production Designer Ra Vincent SDSA Re: the aspect of filmmaking abroad and on such a small budget...
“There are a number of things you have to take into consideration with such a small budget...around $14million for the entire production....and of that, the art department plays with just around $800 thousand...so with that in mind, one of the key thoughts is okay I could bring my set decorator and art director and a few key technicians with me, but what’s going to happen once we land in the Czech Republic is that we’re going to team them up with another person who has technically the same role...”
“So instead of the customary people you go to, whom you communicate well with, I took a chance, short-circuited that process a little bit and went with all local crew. So, after sitting down for an extraordinary amount of interviews with interesting people, some with broken English, some with great English, and some communications that transcended the spoken language in some areas, I ended up with a fantastic team.
Nora Sopková, who is the decorator on our film, was a standout person for me. She had a really beautiful way of describing mood, color and furnishings in a bit more of a theatrical approach. Re: Crew:
For some of the Czech crew, having English as a second language, meant that they pay a lot of attention to what you’re saying. So when you give an instruction, or when you are trying to encourage them into a feeling about a certain space, they’re looking for the slightest little clues. And it’s not just the words that come out of your mouth, it’s the things that you reference, it’s the way that you stand, it’s the expression on your face. I think that they were really great at noticing those cues. And as a result, we ended up with a seamless communication system, which you know, I think we often take for granted.”
...For more, click on the link above!
As a gift for our readers, we are offering Taika Waititi’s open letter re: JOJO RABBIT
“I have always been drawn to stories that see life through children’s eyes.
In this case, it happens to be a kid that we might not normally invest in.
My grandfather fought against the Nazis in World War II and I’ve always been fascinated by that time and those events.
When my mother told me about Christine Leunen’s book Caging Skies, I was drawn in by the fact it was told through the eyes of a German child indoctrinated into hate by adults.
Having children of my own, I have become even more aware that adults are supposed to guide children through life and raise them to be better versions of themselves, and yet in times of war, adults are often doing the opposite. In fact, from a child's point of view, during these times, adults appear chaotic and absurd when all the world needs is guidance and balance.
I experienced a certain level of prejudice growing up as a Māori Jew, so making JOJO RABBIT has been a reminder, especially now, that we need to educate our kids about tolerance and continue to remind ourselves that there’s no place in this world for hate.
Children are not born with hate, they are trained to hate.
I hope the humor in JOJO RABBIT helps engage a new generation; it's important to keep finding new and inventive ways of telling the horrific story of World War II again and again for new generations, so that our children can listen, learn, and move forward, unified into the future.
Here’s to putting an end to ignorance and replacing it with love.”