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.
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!
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...
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.”