Driving comedy with a strong and meaningful narrative structure
In terms of narrative structure, Jojo Rabbit is a classic Coming of Age Comedy.
The Four Throughlines of Jojo Rabbit
With an Objective Story Throughline rooted deep in the perspective of dysfunctional thinking (Psychology), and a personal Main Character Throughline point-of-view fixed within physical appearances and social ostracism (Universe), writer/director/actor Taika Waititi successfully delivers a sound message:
You can be yourself when you give up being good enough for others.
Be the rabbit. Be yourself. Be a hero.
Fitting in, it would seem, propels both the Overall objective view of the conflict, as well as the Personal subjective perspective. This crossover point between the two elevates one singular narrative Method to the forefront: the Element of Accurate.
Tying Conflict to Premise
Defined as “being within tolerances,” Accurate finds many an Illustration in conflict over not being good enough, or assumed appropriateness that is nowhere near appropriate. The former rests in Johannes “Jojo” Betzler’s drive to land within Hitler’s tolerances, and the latter appears everywhere Nazis think themselves accurate in their understanding of the Jewish population.
This imbalance of Accuracy drives several Comedies where trying to hit a mark fuels narrative conflict. Recent standouts Teen Titans Go to the Movies, and Missing Link share Jojo’s love of poking fun at standards and practices. All three of these films share the same narrative structure and the same underlying message:
You can achieve BEING when you give up ACCURACY.
While both objective and subjective views meet at Accurate, the focal point of the Overall Throughline rests in a Method of Being.
Defined as “temporarily adopting a lifestyle,” the narrative Method of Being finds characters focused on being a certain way, on fulfilling roles, and appearing to be something they are not. Being a good Nazi, pretending to be a supporter of the party line, and fulfilling roles not suited for one’s age (ten-year-olds carrying Panzerfausts) all showcase this Objective Premise of Being.
The Challenge to Grow
A subjective point-of-view locked in this particular take on Accuracy and an objective focus on Being will only shift when confronted with an overwhelming sense of Proven.
And this is where Captain Klenzendorf (Sam Rockwell) comes in.
The Solution to problems of Accuracy, the end of the arc as it will, is an Element of Non-accurate. Defined as “not within tolerances,” Non-accurate arrives in a narrative with Illustrations of being mistaken and deviating from the norm. The first appears in Captain Klenzendorf’s gesture of goodwill towards the kids; the latter finds inspiration within the intolerable and mistaken notions of Hitler himself.
Both Hitler and Klenzendorf relay the positive aspects of deviant behavior when it comes to being yourself. They represent Non-accurate to Jojo’s Element of Accurate. Yet, it’s Klenzendorf’s has-been persistence that eventually drives the boy to abandon his perspective.
Both Captain and Hitler Youth share outcast status from the German army; Klenzendorf lost an eye; Jojo almost loss his in an accidental disfigurement. Yet, whereas the boy seeks approval by remaining Accurate to the Nazi code, the Captain participates in Non-accurate behavior—drinking around children, dancing and firing a rifle from his hip, and sketching an over-the-top uniform with brightly colored plumage.
This deviant behavior shows Jojo, despite being devalued by the Füehrer, a better way. Regardless of what proof they may have of you as a failure, you can still be yourself—and you can be so brilliantly.
The Heart of Every Story
While many would be content to play out the emotional argument between Klenzendorf and Jojo, the real heart of the story rests in the relationship between Jojo and Elsa (Thomasin MacKenzie). Playing out the precepts of a monster in the attic, the two develop a friendship from their initial confusion over who is the predator and who is prey. What starts firmly rooted in distrust grows to a shared embracing of all the dangers waiting outside for them.
Understanding the Subtext of Conflict
Plug a Problem of Accurate into a Coming of Age Comedy, and you find an Influence Character Source of Drive of Proven and an Influence Character Issue of Value. Klenzendorf’s attitude, despite being devalued and proven worthless, correctly influences young Jojo.
You also find a Relationship Story Domain of Physics and a Relationship Story Problem of Trust and a Relationship Story Solution of Test. Chasing and trapping a monster and learning its secrets sets the stage; distrust that draws two nearer through sharing a challenge drops the curtain on their emotional play.
This juxtaposition of narrative dynamics is why everyone universally celebrates the story of Jojo Rabbit, why it won Best Adapted Screenplay, and why it scores 96% on Rotten Tomatoes. Jojo Rabbit tells a complete story, maintaining the integrity of a meaningful storyform.