In Germany in the 1970’s, they sort of experienced a new dawn of excellence in cinema, not seen in the country since before the Nazi’s. Directors such as Werner Herzog, Wim Wenders and Rainer Werner Fassbinder emerged to create a sort of new wave for Germany and I think the crown jewel is The Tin Drum.
Based on the book of the same name by Gunter Grass, the film contains only the first two books of the trilogy and doesn’t contain the fact the Oskar Matzerath (David Bennent) is narrating the book from a mental institute.
Oskar is intellectual at birth and on his third birthday receives his prize possession a tin drum, which he will not part from and will kill for (he receives new ones every so often), he also has a voice that can shatter glass. On the same day, he decides to stop growing and throws himself down the cellar to achieve this.
He lives in Danzig (now Gdansk), Poland with his mother and her husband, Alfred, he considers Alfred to be one of his fathers’ , the other being his mother’s cousin (and lover), Jan – either could be his father.
There are many disturbing images in the film such as Oskar having sex with his baby sitter and watching his mother and Jan having sex, his father retrieving eels from a dead horse’s head etc. I do feel some 70s films that had scenes in them to shock, now seem dated because of them and although this was set in the 30s up to the end of the War (when Oskar decides to start growing again), it feels very much like a 1970’s film.
It courted controversy all around the world and was banned in certain countries, the full ‘director’s cut’ is being released on blu-ray in January which will add a further 20 minutes to it.
I think David Bennett’s performance is pivotal to the film’s success, he was 13 at the time, but it seems a shock that the only other known film he has appeared in is Ridley Scott’s “Legend”.
The film shared the Palme d’Or with “Apocalypse Now”, one of the few times it has ever been shared.
It remains quite a unique experience in cinema, but a rewarding one and one which will stay with you for a long time.
Release date, Germany – 3rd May, 1979