No Laughing Matter: Holocaust Comedy

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This thesis provides an in-depth analysis of the American comedies Inglourious Basterds and Jojo Rabbit, and the German comedies Look Who’s Back and The Bloom of Yesterday. A theoretical framework on the definition of comedy, the American and German collective memory and the history of Holocaust comedies will be constructed in the first chapter. The four selected case studies will then be explored on formal structures of film that include camera angles, sound and mise en scene. After discussing these elements, the case studies will be analyzed with regard to its themes, symbols and characters. The aforementioned aspects will eventually lead to a description of the film directors’ representation of the collective Holocaust memory. Ultimately, the conclusion is drawn that all four movies include a critical note with regard to contemporary issues and connect the past with the present. Most specifically Look Who’s Back effectively connects Adolf Hitler with today’s issues such as xenophobia and right-wing extremism. The American comedies represent America’s collective Holocaust memory through over exaggerating and simultaneously ridiculing American and Nazi Germany stereotypes. By strengthening Jewish characters, the two American comedies express their discontent with the “passive Jew” stereotype. Inglourious Basterds additionally focuses upon Hollywood’s distinction between good and evil. The Bloom of Yesterday also criticizes the film industry, yet for its lack of recognizing and remembering German suffering after the war.
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