A boy who refuses to grow up during the time of National Socialism. A good strategy in some respects as it gets you out of the army. There again the slaughter commenced with the liquidation of the mentally unfit. Set in Danzig nee Gdansk the story grows from the perception of Oskar. His perception is less to do with the Nazi's but with adults. He refuses to grow up because of the hypocracy of the world around him, his mother, his uncle, his father and all the others eventually succumb to Oskars rigorous moral code of righteousness.
It was a time of no morality or amorphous boundaries. The people loved National Socialism not because of the screaming of the deranged but the shift in beating their carpets to having a hoover. Gunter Grass captures the feelings of pleasure from having things. The Nazis are the backdrop to adult hypocracy, no better than the ones who are against, the polish nationalists. The film is resolutely amoral and this is both a strength and a weakness. It is a strength because it explores belief as normality and a weakness because I am usually expecting to see a complete denigration of National Socialist beliefs. The facts are however it was imbued into the fabric of peoples lives and they gave the movement its power, not the maniac hypnotising the masses.
Ultimately the only form of resitance which could be offered was refusing to comply with the adults world where they had all lost their senses.
If you are expecting a Hollywood romp you are going to be sorely disappointed. If you are expecting a good/evil morality tale again you will be sorely tested. If you want to delve into a deep pool and are unsure the depth of the bottom then this film is for you. Afterwards, like Apocalypse Now it leaves a disturbing taste, if you can get beyong the Wagner. If you have time wait a couple of days and then watch "Come and See", the greatest European, along with the first version of All Quiet on the Western Front, ever made. The madness is illustrated succinctly within the German and Russian productions
on 11 January 2005
THE TIN DRUM (or DIE BLECHTROMMEL, by it's german title) is a film that not everyone has heard of, and if they have, not likely to have seen it. If you have heard of this film, then don't try to presume anything about it because you will never have seen anything like this before, and never likely to see anything like it again.
Oskar Matzerath (Bennent) is a three-year-old boy who carefully observes the behaviour of the adult world during the rise of the Nazis in 1920's Germany. Disgusted by what he sees, he throws himself down the cellar steps in order to stop himself growing, and he succeeds. Oskar continues his observations of adults as he ages like a normal human being, but he is still in the body of a three-year-old, which makes for something truly terrifying.
Oskar has a lot of emotional anger that he only lets out by beating his red and white toy drum that was given to him on his third birthday, and letting out a shrill, terrifying scream that can shatter glass. His (Oskar's) anger is only infused by the many grotesque, violent and perverted acts that occur around him, like the sex scenes between his mother and his uncle, or the rotting horse's head that his father, Alfred uses as bait for eels that he cooks for dinner. When his mother discovers that she is pregnant with another child, it becomes clear to Oskar that Alfred (Adorf), who he thought was his father might not be, but his Uncle Jan (Olbrychski) is. Oskar's mother is overcome with guilt, so she starts eating whole fish, uncooked. Eventually, the guilt overwhealms her and she kills herself in the bathroom. This is when Oskar sees that the world is not going to change, so he starts on his demented way towards living out the rest of his life.
Directed by Volker Schlondorff, THE TIN DRUM is a very powerful, but very disturbing translation from the book written by Gunther Grass, but what the film clevrly does is that it hooks you in to it's demented, but superior story, and when you want to get out, it refuses to let you go, but in the end, you will disapprove of trying to get out, because THE TIN DRUM is so different, so disturbing that you are shocked, appalled and saddened by little Oskar's trip through life as he discovers love, loss and life from his torturous start in life in Danzig to his years in the Nazi race that have overpowered Germany.
Don't expect to relive an experience like THE TIN DRUM because once you see this film, you won't want to revisit the world of a man like Oskar again.
on 23 May 2000
I have actually broken my first copy and was eager to secure a replacement.
Having read the book by Grass, I was concerned how it might translate to the screen. It actually works extremely well, capturing much of the claustrophobic/paranoid atmosphere of the book.
Obviously, things have had to go. Some of the ..ahem... sticky and descriptive bits have been left out - in the wrong hands it could have been verging on pornographic, which certainly isn't the tone of the book.
Also, much of Oskar's musing's have been curtailed - the film ends at a point where the book has still some time to cover. This could cause some confusion for anyone who has not read it as they would have no idea that Oskar is actually telling his story from a lunatic asylum.
Despite these shortcomings, though, one experiences a wealth of emotions during the showing. There is sorrow, laughter, (look out for the waltzing Hitler Youth) anguish (Charles Aznovour as the toyshop owner) and bewilderment to name a few.
The music at the beginning is heavy and plodding - one can imagine a heavy horse pulling a cart through muddy potato fields. The wailing of the Jew's Harp further intensifies the experience.
Oskar is faithfully represented by David Bennett -the boy who decides not to grow. The other members of the cast, though maybe not household names provide a rich mixture of characters who show a no-holds-barred-reality. Just look at the haircut of the Youth Leader! There is no prettyfication here.
It stands up as a film in its own right. It does have blemishes, but I don't feel that they detract from the the experience and certainly can assist the understanding of an often enigmatic book.
Made in 1979 this award winning German film is an adaptation of the book of the same name by Günter Grass. It is the story of Oskar who is born to a mother who loves two men and a grandmother with a past and very accommodating skirts. On his third birthday he sees how the adults around him are behaving and is less than pleased. So he makes up his mind that he will stop growing up.
He is also inseparable from his tin drum - which he bangs at all occasions and needs to regularly replace. He also has a gift of having such a high powered scream that it will shatter glass - this he uses when ever he is displeased. His rejection of his family and their middle class attitudes is set against the rise of Nazism and Der Fuhrer. Even though his body will not grow his mind certainly does and that will bring its own problems.
This is a truly memorable film, with acting, direction and camera work that is as close to flawless that I have seen. It is 136 minutes long but seems much shorter which is always the sign of a quality film. There are scenes that come close to bizarre but that too is used to show the absurdist nature of what was taking place at the time and beneath the pomp of the rallies, and the like, lay the very real dangers that Hitler and co would bring down on Germany. This is one of those films that all serious cinephiles need to see, I am glad I finally have.
on 22 December 2003
Although it's over 20 years since i saw this film at the cinema. This film still has the power to shock and disturb. It could be viewed as a black comedy or as a realistic fantasy. The story though, is fairly simple Oscar matzereth(David Bennent), a child of only 3. Decides he doesn't want to grow up, So he throws himself down the celler steps,an act that causes him to stop growing. As the nazis take power in germany Oscar beats out his anger on his toy drum.
The film seems to be about 2 minutes shorter then the version i saw in 1980.Most of the cuts are from sex scenes between oscars uncle and his mother and a controversial sequence in which Oscar has oral sex with his nanny. That said, if you've never seen the film you probably wouldn't notice. You certainly won't have seen anything like it befor. The film won the best foreign language oscar in 1979. An award it richly deserved.
Over two and a half hours with a boy and his tin drum. Sex is the most difficult part of this movie. Politics we can understand. The morning after I realise the madness of the time was before the onset of brown shirt order. Wild society.
The 1920s were wild. In Poland/Germany the air of ignorance is plain to see. Low education. The boy is the narrator. I would say that he not only stops himself growing in the face of ignorant adults but he also kills those closest to him. The human compassion has disappeared.
I first saw this movie in an art house cinema in the 1980s. But I only understood its many levels last night. Touches of home-movie documentary, journalism and fantasy are mixed with pictorial skill to create this always fascinating film. Immaculate blu ray presentation with an extensive booklet and many Extras on the discs. I got it with Singing in the Rain: two for £10.
I was concerned that the Director's cut would not work. I viewed it and could not see one superfluous scene. The narrative progressed in a manner that had me always involved. Seamless story telling.
on 29 January 2014
Disturbing, engrossing, chilling, funny and erotic; and certainly not one for your maiden aunt.
I watched it alone and at times laughed aloud .. at other times physically squirmed.
I think it's safe to say you'll probably never see another film quite like it again; and the central performance by 12 year old David Bennent must be a contender for one of the all-time greatest performances by a child actor.
Basically, it's about the rise of Nazism in Poland during the 1920s / 30s (and its aftermath) as seen through the (extremely dysfunctional) eyes of a child. For me,the most chilling part was the way Nazism was shown to gradually seduce and take hold of the imaginations of ordinary everyday people. The inference: if it could happen then ...
Anyway, I now feel compelled to read the novel; which I guess is the highest recommendation anyone can give for a movie based on a book.
Oh, and as for the heading of this review - well, you'll just have to see and judge for yourself!
Oskar Matzerath,the precocious protagonist who refuses to grow up,in Volker Schlondorff's 1979 film,Tin Drum,is an unreliable narrator.This is Gunther Grass's own childhood,but he grew:that's how he ended up wanting to partake in the war.The film captures much of the novel's picaresque energy and surrealism.It opens with Oskar's grandmother sitting in a muddy field heating potatoes.She is impregnated with Oskar's mother by Joseph,the man on the run from the police,hiding under her skirt.Oskar always speaks off screen,often in the 3rd person, sometimes in the 1st,you don't really know where this voice is coming from.The reason-he is pretending to be a 3 year old.You see a child, but with the brain of a grown-up.His shrieking angry little voice is the opposite of what you expect.
David Bennent gives an eerie performance.Like a doe-eyed child,but with a maturity and aloof quality.When he's not shattering glass,his behaviour is more restrained than that of the adults around him,including his 2 fatherfigures: his mother's grocer husband Alfred,who becomes an enthusiastic Nazi,and Oskar's heroic uncle,Jan, who takes part in the defence of the Polish post office in Danzig in 1939-one of the 1st battles of WWII.Oskar's 2 father figures show different aspects of Grass's own character.The ambivalence to the Nazis are like the passages in Grass's memoir,Peeling the Onion(2006),in which he seeks belatedly to justify his wartime behaviour.In The Tin Drum,Grass was lambasted for writing in too brazen and open a way about the Nazi era.We now know Grass's admission he had been a member as a teenager of the Waffen SS.Was he the nation's bad conscience or was he expiating his own pettiness?Driven by guilt to write The Tin Drum to exorcise the demons?
Schlondorff said Nazism was a consequence of the failure of the Weimar Republic.The large middle class were excluded from any participation in its affairs.Oskar is a representative.He has this incredible urge for power.He feels enormous,but he's a dwarf.So he's the symbol of his class but he would like to be the one in command,but there's the Fuhrer.His scream is because he'd like to be no.1.This child-like behaviour is acceptable from a child, but not from grown-ups:then it becomes infantile,diminishing.Oskar resents the display.He thinks he's in the true world.In the bandstand scene he's not resisting the Nazis but power of any kind.Objects take on a big significance. The universe of Oskar is a universe of toys.The whole universe should look like a toy;his drum the no.1 toy.
Food is important.It comes to an extreme when his mum kills herself.Eels coming from the horse's head like after-birth. She eats fish,gets sick,eats more fish because of her guilt.Fish is the symbol of her Christianity.The sexual scenes are central to the kind of world Oskar is born into.How his mother was born.We see Oskar in the womb, planning his entry into the fallen world.His mother's adultery is something he's aware of when she leaves him in the toyshop.He climbs to the roof and screams shattering all the windows of the building opposite.Frustration makes Oskar beat his drum or scream.The new director's cut has over 20 minutes of scenes the director was obliged to cut in 1979.The running time is at 163 minutes in the new cut,Schlondorff is clarifying the '79 cut,adding new layers.
Casting a twelve-year-old boy (David Bennent) as Oskar,the director fashioned "world history experienced from below," from the perspective of a small rebel armed with a drum and graced with a voice that breaks glass. A twisted variation on the German Bildungsroman, Oskar's education between the fronts of German and Polish history becomes an exercise in alienation and deformation. The youth refuses to accommodate himself to the status quo and compels himself to stop growing at the age of three. His fulsome drumming beats against the tenor of the times and his shrill scream poses a public menace. The film imbues the boy's negativity with a subversive power; his acts of refusal both issue from and militate against the experience of history.Worth seeing for the extra scenes which add
new light to this old material and new archive material.
on 3 June 2004
This review pertains to the US Code 1 Criterion Collection edition of the film.
The Tin Drum is based on Gunther Grass's Nobel winning novel. The whole setting revolves around the most tumultous period in recent German history, spanning from the late 19th century till the end of the second World War, Germany had seen boundaries and name drawn and redrawn numerous times. Not to mention the various follies of wars that had ravaged the country. Oskar, the perpetual 3 year old kid, who refused to grow after observing the immorality that adulthood has to offer. Oskar represented the conscience of the ordinary German of that era. Being impassive, and at the same time bitter and vulnerable and again embittered (especially after the armistice treaty), Oskar presented a whole range of emotions that reflects the public mood of that period.
The DVD presents a beautiful transfer and a Dolby Digital 5:1 audio track. It also comes with an enlightening audio commentary by the director and co-writer, even though at times the commentary may seem bland and screen specific. Nevertheless, it's insightful in the discussion of the production of the film. Another noteworthy extra feature in the 2nd disc is the documentary "Banned in Oklahoma", which chronicled the banning of the film in that state and its ensuing consequences to the country's values of freedom and liberty.
This is a review of the Blue Ray/DVD double disc. I am unable to play the Blue Ray disc, so cannot comment on its contents. So what follows concerns the DVD only, which actually lasts 136 minutes and not the 142 as stated on the cover.
Victor Schlondorff’s film adaptation of Gunter Grass’s famous novel is a straightforward chronological account of Oscar, a young boy experiencing life in interwar Gdansk (Danzig) but with the additional remarkable feature that the boy physically does not grow up. This is ‘compensated’ (if that is the right word) by young Oscar’s power to affect his environment through employing his voice and by playing a toy tin drum, his constant companion.
We watch him quickly learning to mould his family and wider environment to suit his wishes in a society where Polish-German tensions are often just simmering beneath the surface in the run up to the Second World War. I was going to suggest that the film is Gilliamesque, but in fact it is too tragic for that (although there is much dark humour to be had along the way).
The screenplay, in an attempt to cover as much of the life as possible, means that it eschews many of the novel’s diversions. (In the book, Oscar recalls his life whilst in the ward of a mental hospital.) Nor does the film deal with Oscar’s odd inconsistencies and sometimes downright blatant lies that the book reveals in its survey of his life.
The advantage of all this is that the film is certainly easier to comprehend than the book. Nevertheless, an understanding of the symbolic place of Gdansk/Danzig between the wars would certainly be useful to the viewer (but is not essential), for as one of the essays in the accompanying booklet in the DVD set has it, “The city of Danzig is central to the whole ethos of ‘The Tin Drum’.“
In his excellent and measured commentary (in English), Schlondorff ranges from the subject of locations to issues of casting, make-up, music, the contest between film and literature, and the historical and psychological contexts of the story. He expands on how he closely liaised with Grass about the filming of his book. He says it could never have been a ‘real’ story; rather, a magical fairy tale played against a real background.
Schlondorff reveals that David Bennent was eleven years old at the time of filming but with the body of a six year old, and that working with him liberated the director’s own methods. Bennent did not rehearse with the cast but was thrown in to enhance spontaneity and so that the camera could catch his reactions. Also of interest in the commentary is the fact that, despite the book being banned in Poland, the crew was allowed to film in Gdansk for two weeks.
Alas, only the first two parts of Grass’s three-part book was filmed. So there is none of the post-1945 events included. Schlondorff says it would have made the film too long and thus would have taxed the patience of the audience. Other DVD extras include two features (totalling twenty-five minutes), shot in 2001, in which Schlondorff talks about the making of the film. Here he says that they intended to include part three, but this would have made the film five hours long. Grass did not like the film ending at 1945, the ‘zero-hour’; he thought it was not right.
I read the novel before seeing the film, and concluded my review of the former with these words: “I enjoyed Oscar’s company (most of the time), and felt I understood his outlook on life (most of the time). It’s not the easiest novel to read, but a good reader likes a good challenge, so long as gets paid well for his labours.” The same could be said for this film.