New 'Mein Kampf' Movie Mocks Hilter as Failing Artist

Shooting is under way of a film titled "Mein Kampf" that portrays Adolf Hitler as a penniless, unsophisticated young man with failing artistic ambitions who shares a room in Vienna with two Jews, producers said Thursday.

The movie is based on an anti-Hitler farce written by the late Hungarian-born Jewish playwright George Tabori, who encouraged his audience to laugh at villains he portrayed on stage.

The Austrian, German and Swiss co-producers of the movie called it a parable of good and evil, in a release distributed at a news conference in Vienna on Thursday.

"The idea is both simple and subversive: The Jew Schlomo Herzl wants to save the young bumpkin from demise in the big city and by so doing helps give birth to a monster," the release said.

Filming of the production, which has a $4.2 million budget, started in the Austrian capital on Tuesday and is set to be completed in June, said co-producer Martin Lehwald of Germany-based Schiwago Film.

Shooting will shift to the German town of Zittau once the Vienna scenes are completed next week. The film is expected to hit German theaters next year.

In the movie, "Mein Kampf" refers not to Hitler's notorious book in which, among other things, he expressed his hatred of Jews.

Rather, it is the title the character Herzl, played by Goetz George, decides to give a book he wants to write after much back and forth with another central character, the failed cook Lobkowitz, played by Bernd Birkhahn.

Hitler is personified by Tom Schilling.

Lehwald noted it was tough getting the idea off the ground. The project took five years to get going and went through a difficult phase at first because, among other things, it was tough finding people to support it, Lehwald said.

"No one wanted to be first," he said when asked to elaborate.

In addition to Schiwago Film, the movie is being co-produced by Swiss-based Hugofilm Productions GmbH Zuerich, and Austrian-based DOR Filmproduktionsgesellschaft m.b.H. Wien, in cooperation with others such as Austrian broadcaster ORF and French-German television channel Arte.

Lehwald said he hoped the film would become an international success, like another Austrian tale at this year's Oscar Awards.

In February, "The Counterfeiters," the tale of a master forger forced to work for Nazis in a concentration camp, won the foreign-language Oscar.

Directed by Austria's Stefan Ruzowitzky and based on printer Adolph Burger's memoir "The Devil's Workshop," "The Counterfeiters" uses documentary-style handheld camera and quick zooms for a unique look at a little-known World War II story.

Tabori, a legend in Germany's postwar theater world whose avant-garde works confronted anti-Semitism, died in July at the age of 93.

Born into a Jewish family in Budapest on May 24, 1914, Tabori fled in 1936 to London, where he started working for the British Broadcasting Corp., and became a British citizen. His father, and other members of his family, were killed at Auschwitz.

Among his best-known works are "Mein Kampf" and the "Goldberg Variations," another dark farce that pokes fun at the Nazis.

"Mein Kampf" director Urs Odermatt, a Swiss national, appeared enthusiastic about the movie endeavor.

"It's a lot of fun," he said of his first few days on the set.