Main Photo
Here's the now iconic photo... Betzler Dining Room... Jojo dining with an imaginary friend and an amazing mother! Roman Griffin Davis, Taika Waititi, Scarlett Johansson. Photo by Kimberley French ©2019 Searchlight Pictures.

JOJO RABBIT

January 31st, 2020 by Karen Burg & Gene Cane for podcast


Here’s to putting an end to ignorance and replacing it with love.”  
--Taika Waititi
 
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.”
 
Ra provided fascinating details in a lovely conversation with SDSA Executive Director Gene Cane and me for SET DECOR, which for the first time we are bringing to you via video/audio!
Click here:
 
Production Designer Ra Vincent SDSA Oscar Nominee Interview
 
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...
Enjoy!
Karen Burg
Editor
 
 
 
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!
 
Bridge Furniture & Props
 
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.”
-Taika Waititi
 
 
 
 



Photo 3
Betzler Dining Room... 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.” Scarlett Johansson. Courtesy Searchlight Pictures ©2019.

Photo 4
Betzler kitchen... Production Designer Ra Vincent SDSA designed the kitchen to have a pass-through window into the dining room, but one with considerable panache... Roman Griffin Davis, Taika Waititi. Photo by Kimberley French ©2019 Searchlight Pictures.

Photo 5
Betzler kitchen... Here, the other side of the pass through. The kitchen put together in Rosie’s inimitable style. A dejected and lonely Jojo seeks comfort from his imaginary friend... Roman Griffin Davis, Taika Waititi. Courtesy Searchlight Pictures ©2019.

Photo 6
Betzler kitchen... However, the actual comfort comes from the environs of his mother’s kitchen... Roman Griffin Davis. Courtesy Searchlight Pictures ©2019.

Photo 7
Betzler kitchen... Ra was delighted with the Art Deco cabinetry and smalls Set Decorator Nora Sopková SDSA brought in... Note the rounded glass cupboards and the incredible copper tea kettle! Courtesy Searchlight Pictures ©2019.

Photo 8
Betzler kitchen... 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.” Courtesy Searchlight Pictures ©2019.

Photo 9
Betzler house entrance & stairway, concept sketch... You can see from this early concept sketch the natural flow of rooms and immediate warmth of the curved lines that will be key throughout... Courtesy Searchlight Pictures ©2019.

Photo 10
Betzler house stairway, concept sketch... Here, a sample colorway, rich palette, inspired by Rosie’s vivaciousness, strength of character and openness to experiencing life as an art. Courtesy Searchlight Pictures ©2019.

Photo 11
Betzler Living Room... After looking out the window searching for his mother, Jojo awaits her arrival, ready to protect her and himself from what he thinks is his sister’s ghost. He has heard noises from upstairs. Roman Griffin Davis. Courtesy Searchlight Pictures ©2019.

Photo 12
Betzler Living Room... 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... Courtesy Searchlight Pictures ©2019.

Photo 13
Betzler Living Room... 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! Courtesy Searchlight Pictures ©2019.

Photo 14
Jojo’s mother, Rosie’s bedroom... 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... Courtesy Searchlight Pictures ©2019.







Set Decor / Film Decor Features Awards Archives

THE MANY SAINTS OF NEWARK 2021-10-06
MALIGNANT 2021-09-29
DEAR EVAN HANSEN 2021-09-23
FREE GUY 2021-08-14
MA RAINEY'S BLACK BOTTOM 2021-04-20
NEWS OF THE WORLD 2021-04-19
PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN 2021-02-23
THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7 2021-02-15
THE LITTLE THINGS 2021-01-28
THE PROM 2020-12-31
THE BOYS IN THE BAND 2020-11-03
BLACK PANTHER 2020-09-04
STAR WARS:
THE RISE OF SKYWALKER
2020-05-14
THE TWO POPES 2020-01-06
LITTLE WOMEN 2019-12-30
THE REPORT 2019-12-19
KNIVES OUT 2019-12-17
THE IRISHMAN 2019-12-12
LAST CHRISTMAS 2019-12-02
FORD V FERRARI 2019-11-21
DOCTOR SLEEP 2019-11-13
DOWNTON ABBEY 2019-10-10
SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME 2019-07-26
THE HIGHWAYMEN 2019-07-19
ROCKETMAN 2019-07-08
ALADDIN 2019-06-30
JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 3 – PARABELLUM 2019-05-28
AVENGERS: END GAME 2019-05-20
US 2019-04-17
CAPTAIN MARVEL 2019-03-18
OUTLAW KING 2019-02-01
MARY POPPINS RETURNS 2019-01-18
VICE 2019-01-11
WIDOWS 2018-12-18
THE HATE U GIVE 2018-11-02
HOCUS POCUS 2018-10-30
CRAZY RICH ASIANS 2018-08-27
BLACKKKLANSMAN 2018-08-16
ANT-MAN AND THE WASP 2018-07-16
DEADPOOL 2 2018-07-11
WOMAN WALKS AHEAD 2018-06-30
BOOK CLUB 2018-06-25
AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR 2018-05-29
ANNIHILATION 2018-04-02
A WRINKLE IN TIME 2018-03-26
TOMB RAIDER 2018-03-20
BLADE RUNNER 2049 2018-03-01
PHANTOM THREAD 2018-01-31
THE POST 2017-12-31
MOLLY'S GAME 2017-12-18
MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS 2017-11-12
NOVITIATE 2017-10-25
KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE 2017-10-17
AMITYVILLE: THE AWAKENING 2017-10-09
AMERICAN MADE 2017-09-30
TULIP FEVER 2017-08-31
SPIDER-MAN:HOMECOMING 2017-07-17
THE BEGUILED 2017-07-14
BABY DRIVER 2017-06-27
ALIEN: COVENANT 2017-05-19
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL 2 2017-05-11
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST 2017-03-31
LOGAN 2017-03-03
FIFTY SHADES DARKER 2017-02-23
ARRIVAL 2017-02-15
LA LA LAND 2017-02-14
20th CENTURY WOMEN 2017-01-23
HAIL, CAESAR! 2017-01-20
ALLIED 2017-01-11
THE FOUNDER 2017-01-02
PASSENGERS 2016-12-21
JACKIE 2016-12-18
HACKSAW RIDGE 2016-11-22
MOONLIGHT 2016-11-14
THE DRESSMAKER 2016-10-31
THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN 2016-10-21
MASTERMINDS 2016-09-30
MASTERMINDS 2016-09-30
THE BFG 2016-08-27
ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS 2016-06-05
BATMAN v SUPERMAN: Dawn of Justice 2016-05-09
MILES AHEAD 2016-04-11
THE BIG SHORT 2016-04-04
THE MARTIAN 2016-02-15
BRIDGE OF SPIES 2016-01-22
TRUMBO 2015-12-19
SECRET IN THEIR EYES 2015-12-06
SPY 2015-08-02
TERMINATOR: GENISYS 2015-07-20
JUPITER ASCENDING 2015-02-24
SEVENTH SON 2015-02-24
BIRDMAN 2015-02-01
SELMA 2015-01-21
A MOST VIOLENT YEAR 2015-01-09
THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE 5 ARMIES 2014-12-31
WHIPLASH 2014-12-21
GET ON UP 2014-08-05
CHEF 2014-06-28
X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST 2014-06-13
THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 2014-05-03
NEBRASKA 2014-02-25
LOVELACE 2014-01-08
INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS 2013-12-21
saving mr. banks 2013-12-12
rush 2013-10-07
prisoners 2013-10-01
world war z 2013-07-15
star trek into darkness 2013-06-06
lincoln 2013-01-03
the master 2012-11-17
cloud atlas 2012-11-11
the bourne legacy 2012-10-11
lawless 2012-09-24
the amazing spider-man 2012-09-08
the avengers 2012-05-22
good deeds 2012-03-28
hugo 2012-01-27
the help 2011-12-18
twilight: breaking dawn, part 1 2011-12-13
my week with marilyn 2011-12-04
the ides of march 2011-10-20
what's your number? 2011-10-11
contagion 2011-10-03
cowboys & aliens 2011-08-14
super 8 2011-06-21
the conspirator 2011-05-15
limitless 2011-03-26
little fockers 2011-01-14
the next three days 2011-01-05
the social network 2011-01-04
agora 2010-08-28
knight & day 2010-07-02
sex & the city 2 2010-06-02
sherlock holmes 2010-02-08
the lovely bones 2010-01-26
inglourious basterds 2010-01-10
CIRQUE DU FREAK 2009-11-12
SHOPGIRL 2005-10-26
MR. & MRS. SMITH 2005-08-15
SOMETHING'S GOTTA GIVE 2005-05-15
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN 2005-02-15
THE CAT IN THE HAT 2005-02-15
DOWN WITH LOVE 2004-08-15
Decorating the Future For SOLARIS 2004-05-15