Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB
Original title: Die Blechtrommel
West Germany/France/Poland/Yugoslavia, 1979. Franz Seitz Filmproduktion, Bioskop Film, Artemis Film, Hallelujah Films, GGB-14, Argos Films, Jadran Film, Film Polski. Screenplay by Jean-Claude Carriere, Volker Schlondorff, Franz Seitz, additional dialogue by Gunter Grass, based on the novel by Gunter Grass. Cinematography by Igor Luther. Produced by Hans Prescher,Franz Seitz. Music by Maurice Jarre. Production Design by Piotr Dudzinski, Zeljko Senecic. Costume Design by Inge Heer, Dagmar Niefind, Yoshio Yabara. Film Editing by Suzanne Baron. Academy Awards 1979. Cannes Film Festival 1979. National Board of Review Awards 1980.
Nobel Prize-winning author Gunter Grass’s novel becomes a fascinating, explosively cinematic epic in the hands of director Volker Schlondorff. Oskar is born to a German family in 1924 and, at the mere age of 3, decides that grown-up life is too ridiculous for words. In an absurd twist of narrative fancy, he wills himself to stop growing, remaining a toddler throughout the rest of his life and using his ability to break glass with his screams and the pounding on his favourite toy, a tin drum, to express his frustration with the world around him. The joke is that once Germany falls under the sway of Nazism, this anomaly of human existence is actually the one who makes much more sense than everything else. Schlondorff translates Grass’s visual prose into gorgeous camera and editing techniques, coaxing terrific performances out of the entire cast including David Bennent as Oskar and a very sympathetic Angela Winkler as his mother. It’s a long, emotionally draining film, however, and its weighty plotting causes it to run out of a fair amount of steam before its conclusion. Famously notorious in some parts of the world where it was banned for suggestions of child pornography (suggestions which are unfounded, but even the notion of a 3 year-old fathering a child in a fantasy story does push the boundaries of comfort).
The Criterion Collection: #234