Sunday, 10 July 2016



5. HITLER'S FOLLY (2016, dir. Bill Plympton)


"I hope you've got a sense of humour."

This is not me saying this, but rather the writer, director and animator Bill Plympton, introducing his own film. "Hitler's Folly," a 67-minute mockumentary about Adolf Hitler's career as an animator, is being presented, for free, via, because Plympton surmises it is not the sort of film that Hollywood would wish to make.

However, even this film recognises that Hollywood already put the boot in to Hitler. When the director of the "documentary," relating the story provided by a conspiracy theorist murdered at the beginning of the film, says, "is this the biggest pile of horse rap you've ever heard," as if you needed reminding, rationalising its existence with "Mel Brooks did this kind of thing with 'The Producers,' and he is perfectly fine... to this day, perfectly fine." 

"Springtime for Hitler" is a complete pisstake that keeps its subject at arm's length, but "Hitler's Folly" invites you to identify with Hitler from the start, beginning with how, as a child, the saving an injured duck inspired Hitler to create "Downy Duck," a cartoon character that would become the flagship character of Hitlertoons, and the star of a four-hour animated reselling of Wagner's Ring of the Niebelungen - yes, that really is the story! The evidence is presented as film fragments, drawings and photographs kept in a hoarded box by the conspiracy theorist, but in real life is Plympton's work, aping 1920s and 30s animation style, particularly Disney (of which Hitler is depicted as a fan), and doctoring photographs.

When I first heard about "Hitler's Folly," I thought that Plympton had come up with the story of how Downy Duck was a "side project," as it were, to the Nazi Party. What I was not prepared for, and what will test what people define as a joke, is how Downy Duck was Hitler's main plan all along. Hitler is depicted as setting up a film club, where the Nazi salute was a sign of community, and goosestepping came from trying to walk on sticky cinema carpets. This led to the formation of "NACI," the National Animation Cinema Institute. Hitler then became Chancellor of Germany in order to secure funding for his Ring Cycle film, the deal hinging on President Hindenburg securing a drawing of Mickey Mouse from "Steamboat Willie." The mooted plans for a "Nazi Land," making too close a comparison with Disney, was where this film started to lose me, as the film tests you on when you will get fed up with itself.

The conceit that the Second World War was to secure the rights to "territories" in which to release the film was bad enough. For the concentration camps to be described as artists' communes, where people "concentrated" on their work, where people whose work wasn't good enough were taken away, and where a picture of the gate into Auschwitz was doctored to read "Arbeit Macht Frei - Ink & Paint Dept," this was beyond the pale, even for me. While we recognise how comedy can be used to test the boundaries of what is acceptable, A FUCKING BAD JOKE IS A FUCKING BAD JOKE!

I guess that Plympton was relying on the absurdity of his tale bringing people through to the end - that it is so outrageous, it cannot possibly be taken seriously. Much about the Second World War that can be laughed at, but there remains much that cannot be, and those boundaries are maintained as a reminder to us all, with good reason. If "Hitler's Folly" was maintained as a side project, it would have been more palatable - to joke that a world war was in order to make a film, "conspiracy theory" or not, will remain in bad taste for a very long time.

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