Sunday, January 30, 2011

Das Boot

Mr Bookscorpion and I have watched Das Boot over the weekend and I mean the massive 282 minutes TV version (on DVD). I absolutely love that movie and I've seen it many times, since my mom loves it just as much and we caught just about every re-run on TV. No matter how often I see it, the beginning never fails to give me goosebumps, with the underwater silhouette of the boat slowly coming into view to the sounds of Klaus Doldinger's awesome soundtrack.

I really recommend watching the movie and if you do, try watching it in German (with subtitles of your choice). It doesn't matter if you speak German or not, but I always feel that the voice of an actor is an important part of the performance and yes, I do actually watch movies in languages I don't understand. In the case of Das Boot, the main actors actually dubbed their own voices in the English version, though. Oh, and if you do speak German, you will have fun with the different dialects, almost no-one speaks standard German.

The camera work is just amazing. The movie was shot in a full sized-mock up of a German Type VII submarine, with the cameraman running after the actors. If you have ever been on board of any WWII submarine, you know how cramped they are and how difficult it is to get anywhere quickly. I've been to the museum submarine in Laboe a few times, the same type U96 was, and it's absolutely claustrophobic.

Lothar Günther Buchheim, who wrote the book the movie is based on after his experiences as a war correspondent, thought that is was too shallow and that it only glorified the war. I would disagree and I think that unless you are totally ignorant, you will see the anti-war message here, at the latest when the boat actually sinks a ship and the crew has to watch the sailors drown.
Of course it's a thrilling movie and it may not show with 100% accuracy how the crews of submarine behaved (Buchheim applauded the technical accuracy, though), but on the whole I think it's a story well told.

I have read all the books Buchheim wrote on submarines and I noticed that try as he might, he can't avoid showing just how fascinating submarines are. The movie does that as well and it's the reason why I'm such a sucker for submarines today. I believe I have seen most submarines you can see in Western Europe plus the USS Pampanito in San Francisco. The first date I had with Mr Bookscorpion was on the Russian submarine here in Hamburg and I'm always ready to add one more submarine to my collection.

There are many awesome scenes in the movie, but one of the best features Otto Sander as the totally wasted Kapitänleutnant Thomsen, who has just been awarded the Ritterkreuz and makes a speech. I couldn't find an English version, but just watch the faces of the crowd...they are terrified that Thomsen will actually say anything against the war and Hitler before they laugh in relief when he rips into Churchill.

By the way, if you think that U96 looks somehow familiar: the full-scale model was used in Raiders of the Lost Ark. The crew of Das Boot came to work one morning and their boat was gone. Spielberg had hired the model, but it had somehow been neglected to pass that information along to the crew. That must have been awkward.

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