Das Boot (1981)

Das Boot (1981)

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They couldn't tell if it was One Direction or Justin Bieber that was polluting the airwaves.
They couldn’t tell if it was One Direction or Justin Bieber that was polluting the airwaves.

Twitter Plot Summary: The story of a German U-Boat during World War 2. The battles, the monotony, the man smell, the beards.

Five Point Summary:

1. Last night on dry land.
2. Not much going on…
3. ALAAAAAARRMMMM!!!!
4. Having a dig at the Nazi Command.
5. Gibraltar

Das Boot remains one of the all time great war films, perfectly depicting the life of a U-Boat crew primed for combat. The fresh faced youngsters soon morph into hardened (and bearded) veterans, all under the watchful eye of their seasoned captain, played by Jurgen Prochnow. Their journey is mostly spent sailing the Atlantic, waiting for contact with their enemy. The vast swathes of time they spend sitting around are punctuated by brief spurts of action and the threat of being hit by a well-placed depth charge.

Based on Lothar Gunter-Buchheim’s book, our introduction into the world of U-Boats is provided by reporter Lt Werner (Herbert Gronemeyer) who is on board to provide some first person journalism on the U-Boat war effort. Thanks to the decision to shoot the film in an exact replica of a U-Boat, the sense of claustrophobia and pressure is acutely felt, although the claustrophobia is automatically assumed and perhaps would have been too easy a subject to cover. Instead it’s about the men that inhabit U-96, their opinions on the war, their resilience in the face of powerful enemies, and their determination to do the best job they can despite perhaps not believing in the cause.

The shock and awe was palpable. They had just witnessed a man spontaneously explode.
The shock and awe was palpable. They had just witnessed a man spontaneously explode.

Underneath it all is the tale of men who are weary about the war, who for the most part have had enough of their leaders back in Germany. Going completely against expectations, Das Boot is not a flag waving exercise, with only the first officer – a former Hitler Youth – acting as a representative of Hitler’s beliefs. It proves, as if you needed it pointing out, that not everybody in Germany was enamoured with the Nazis being in power, and patriotism shouldn’t be confused with supporting fascism. Some early scenes see fellow U-Boat captain Thomsen mouthing off about the higher ups in German command, and for a moment it looks like it could get awkward. Before anyone has to step in (Prochnow very subtly moves forward to intervene if needed) Thomsen realises his position and makes a joke of it. The whole film is full of little character moments like this that really add depth and our belief in these people. Germany may have been on the “other” side in World War 2, but these are not unlikeable people.

Das Boot’s final scene provides a powerful message that has been stamped throughout the narrative – that war is futile and pointless. Despite the many highs and lows experienced by the crew, it is this final punctuation mark that defines it, and ultimately makes Das Boot an essential experience for fans of the war genre. This Director’s Cut of Das Boot runs for 2.5 hours yet seems to disappear in a flash. For those who are interested in getting more out of this story you may want to check out the mini series which doubles the running time and adds more depth to the boredom of life on a U-Boat as noted by our resident correspondent.

Score: 5/5

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