by Rob DiCristino
Spoilers for Jojo Rabbit
Few feelings in life match the exhilaration of total certainty. The calm, centering force assures us that we know best and that everyone who opposes us is wrong. Our clarity lets us walk a little taller. It puts a little extra pep in our step. We even pity our detractors, in a way; we feel endowed by our creators with a mystical sixth sense that allows us to stand above these poor, unfortunate souls. “They just can’t see what I see,” we tell ourselves. “They don’t know any better.” And while there are certainly social and philosophical arenas in which science, scholarship, and natural laws provide definitive answers to complex questions, none of those figures or equations feels quite as good as Following Our Gut. It’s ethereal. It’s spiritual. It makes us superhuman. It gives our pursuits meaning and shapes their purpose. “It’s better to die for something than to live for nothing,” says General Patton. In these instances — when we’re blindly, perhaps fatally committed — that we shift from holding knowledge to practicing belief.
Does Jojo really have that much hate in his heart? Does he really believe that non-Aryans are a scourge to be eradicated and that a militarized Germany is the key to his happiness? Of course not. Jojo is simply at a vulnerable time in his life, and he sees the certainty of the Nazis as a stabilizing force that will grant him strength and clarity. Jojo, it seems, is in desperate need of both: His father is fighting in Italy. His sister has recently died. Only his mother (Scarlett Johansson as Rosie) remains, and her fierce opposition to the war effort offers Jojo no support. Rosie believes in peace, in beauty. She wants to dance to life’s music. She wants to see her town squares full of lovers, not soldiers. “Love is the strongest thing in the world,” Rosie tells him. “Metal is the strongest thing in the world,” Jojo retorts, “followed closely by dynamite and then muscles.” Rosie is weak, he thinks. Passive. Captain Klenzendorf (Sam Rockwell), on the other hand, can give Jojo strength, metal, and muscles. He can teach Jojo to march and shoot and blow things up. He can help Jojo wreak the same destruction upon the fragile world as it has wreaked upon him.