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Country: West Germany
Run Time: 127 minutes
The resurgence of the German Cinema has reached new heights with director Volker Schlondorff's remarkable film adaptation of Gunter Grass' famous 1959 novel "The Tin Drum." The film shared top honors with "Apocalypse Now" at the Cannes Film Festival last year. Grass' incisive allegory about the mentality that allowed Hitler's rise to power has been fashioned into a compelling screenplay by Schlondorff, Jean-Claude Carriere and Franz Seitz, with "additional dialogue" by Grass. This immense, powerful film uses both realistic and fantasy techniques to convey the social and political mood of Germany before, during and after the Nazi era.
The story concerns Oskar Matzerath, a precocious young boy who, seeing the drunken revelry of his family at his third birthday party, decides that he will stop growing physically in order to escape the adult world. In a gesture of total rejection, he contrives a deliberate accident to halt his growth. Oskar thus develops into a pint-sized observer of the hypocrisies and lies around him, tapping out on his tin drum the great and small events that touch his existence. The horrors of World War II and its effect on the citizens of Danzig (where the boy's family lives) are brilliantly depicted and contrasted against the innocence of this eternal youth. Obviously, there is a surrealistic edge to the film, but Schlondorff makes it all seem very real.
The character of Oskar is played by the then 12-year-old David Bennent, the son of Heinz Bennent who takes the role of Greff. Despite his obvious youth, Bennent's portrayal seems perfect in every detail. Strong supporting performances come from Angela Winkler as the boy's mother and Berta Drews as his grandmother. The production is impressive throughout, not only for its re-creation of the period, but for the special effects as well. This is all given great beauty and immediacy by Igor Luther's cinematography with its stunning images and fascinating detail.
Volker Schlondorff, born in 1939, was an assistant director with Alain Resnais and Louis Malle before he directed his first feature film "Young Torless" in 1965. He has made himself an important part of the rise of the New German Cinema in the 1970s with such features as "A Free Woman" (1972), "The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum" (1975) and "Le Coup de Grace" (1976). He has often collaborated with the actress/director Margarethe von Trotta.
During the filming of THE TIN DRUM in summer and fall of 1978, Gunter Grass commented: "A great deal of Oskar Matzerath is to be found in today's generation. Many would like to escape the process of becoming an adult and the inherent responsibilities. That is why the literary figure of Oskar Matzerath seems to me to be a figure of today; it is continuously caught up with the present."
"THE TIN DRUM offers a challenging experience, which is relayed with considerable visual impact and which is both emotionally and intellectually stimulating." - Ron Pennington, Hollywood Reporter
Volker Schloendorff, Franz Seitz, and Jean-Claude Carriere (from the novel by Gunter Grass)
David Bennent, Mario Adorf, Angela Winkler, Daniel Olbrychski, Katharina Thalbach, Heinz Bennent, Berta Drews, Fritz Hakl, Andrea Ferreol, Charles Aznavour
New World Pictures