Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5.
Original title: Das Boot Ist Voll
Switzerland/West Germany/Austria, 1981. Limbo Film AG, Schweizer Fernsehen, Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen, Österreichischer Rundfunk. Sc reenplay by Markus Imhoof, based on the book by Alfred A. Haesler. Cinematography by Hans Liechti. Produced by George Reinhart. Production Design by Max Stubenrauch. Film Editing by Helena Gerber, Fee Liechti. Academy Awards 1981. National Board of Review Awards 1981.
A train crossing Europe makes a stop in Switzerland and six figures secretly sneak off board: a Jewish brother and sister, an elderly Jewish man and his granddaughter, a lone French child and a deserting Nazi soldier. They find themselves taking shelter in the first barn they can find and, before they know it, are the guests of doubtful but humane innkeepers who don’t know what to do with their charges. Switzerland’s neutrality policy involves the titular claim that they are no position to take refugees, but there are rules that allow some people to stay (army deserters, families that have children under six, etc). The negotiation that then begins as these randomly assembled people, all having their own desperate needs and forced to behave as a cohesive group, brings into question just how moral it is to remain neutral in a world at war, and just how true the country’s claim was at not being able to take more passengers onto its proverbial boat. Aside from these themes, however, it’s also a beautifully performed and expertly directed drama that grabs hold of you right away and never lets you go, the recreation of the period superb and the dialogue intelligent and smooth. Tina Engel is particularly great in the lead.