Saturday, January 15, 2011

Das Boot. A

Das Boot is an essential viewing experience, not just for people who love movies, but for anyone who has an understanding of war and who can appreciate the dignity and humanity found within it. Das Boot is about Germans on a war submarine, and when I say that I mean it in every sense. This movie submerges into the confines of the ship and shows us every detail we could want (and not want) of the German experience under water in the second world war. Narrowing things down, it's about a naive yet daring war correspondent and the ship's chief commander, played by the great Jurgen Prochnow. The commander is a fascinating character because he has so much responsibility, even more choices to make, and we get to see first-hand the challenge of his job. He never shows fear, yet we know we there's trepidation inside him. He's the film's hero, a truly great movie character and an even greater portrait of a leader devoted to his job. Das Boot is a massive feat, directed passionately by German-born Wolfgang Peterson. It's the most claustrophobic movie ever made, which is exactly what Peterson was going for when he made the film in 1981. He wanted us to feel like crew members, to feel suffocated and desperate to breath open air. And when his camera leaves the confines of the sub and shows the vast sea with the howling winds and spitting rain, it almost feels like we're being given a chance to take a breather before jumping back down and continuing the journey. There are two versions of Das Boot, a 2 hour 20 minute one that supposedly plays like a white knuckle thriller, and then the director's cut, which goes on for a 209 minutes. That's the version I saw, and I can't really imagine enjoying the shorter one after experiencing the greatness of the added scenes. The additions make for a more personal and psychological experience, which is what I wanted from a movie like this. Das Boot has a magnificent ending, one of the most feel-good of all movies. That is until reality sets end and leaves a devastating mark. This movie is constantly moving our emotions around. It has our hearts singing at the finale and then pulls a sudden string that's like having a weight pull you to the ocean floor. This is the most powerful war movie I've seen in terms of making the viewer feel a certain way about something. These are Germans we're with for 209 minutes. Most movies make them out to be the enemy. By the end it's the Americans we're mad at. No movie has ever done that before.

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