Friday, March 02, 2007

Movie Notes: The Tin Drum (1979)

Volker Schlöndorff's great 1979 film is an epic portrait of the Nazi era told from the point of view of a boy who decides to stop growing up after noting the madness of the adults around him. The boy's surreal protest becomes a response against Nazi Germany and a fitting metaphor for the years in which, as he puts it, "There once was a gullible people who believed in Santa Claus. But he wasn't Santa Claus; he was the gas man!"

Based on Günter Grass’ novel, the film is epic, comic, strange, erotic, satirical, and humane. It won the 1979 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language film and was one of numerous German films of that time to deal critically and openly with the Nazi era. However, the film also takes a sidewards glance at the hypocrisy of the patriarchal family more generally- the boy's father is a clueless authoritarian and his mother is a pious dishrag who is cheating on her husband with her cousin. Little Oskar seems to be the sanest one in the family, especially during the Nazi era, and his strategy of noncommittal seems to be the wisest course to take.

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