When the Conan-Leno debacle began, two things were certain: One, it would change the face of late night, and two, someone would apply it to the Downfall Hitler meme. When Oliver Hirschbiegel staged the famous bunker scene in his 2004 movie, with Bruno Ganz as Hitler, he wasn’t expecting it to be appropriated for comedy; a dramatic recreation of Hitler’s last stand is not exactly a laugh-out-loud subject. And yet the German filmmaker is pleased, nay, thrilled that YouTube enthusiasts have taken it upon themselves to reinterpret it to address anything from Hillary Clinton’s loss to the Taylor Swift-Kanye West feud.
“Someone sends me the links every time there’s a new one,” says the director, on the phone from Vienna. “I think I’ve seen about 145 of them! Of course, I have to put the sound down when I watch. Many times the lines are so funny, I laugh out loud, and I’m laughing about the scene that I staged myself! You couldn’t get a better compliment as a director.” Some of Hirschbiegel’s favorites are the one where Hitler hears of Michael Jackson’s death, and one in which the Fuhrer can’t get Billy Elliot tickets.
As for the idea of such a serious scene being used for laughs, Hirschbiegel thinks it actually fits with the theme of the movie. “The point of the film was to kick these terrible people off the throne that made them demons, making them real and their actions into reality,” he says. “I think it’s only fair if now it’s taken as part of our history, and used for whatever purposes people like.” He adds, “If only I got royalties for it, then I’d be even happier.”