Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Volker Schlöndorff: 'Die Blechtrommel' / 'The Tin Drum' (1979)

It took many years, but I finally consented to re-watch Volker Schlöndorff's Die Blechtrommel / The Tin Drum (1979) -- Schlöndorff's movie adaptation of the 1959 Günter Graß novel. Given the vivid imagery, dark humor, horror and memorably dramatic events depicted in Danzig (Gdańsk) and elsewhere in Europa during the periods before, during and immediately after the Second World War, I found that my memory of the film was in close alignment with how it unfolds during a second look, albeit with the added bonus of a longer director's cut. I can also say more confidently now thanks to more life experience and additional comparison to many other works of art in the intervening years that this is a Schlöndorff masterwork.  
An excellent reason to see The Tin Drum is that it was banned in Oklahoma for many years. Pretty funny considering the film's obvious anti-Nazi illuminations. 
The Tin Drum makes me think of The Pied Piper of Hamelin (Der Rattenfänger von Hameln). You may recall that in the legend, survivors of the Pied Piper's work include a crippled rat and a crippled child, both of whom bear witness to what has happened to their peers. In The Tin Drum, Otto Matzerath, who has decided to stop growing at age three, plays a succession of tin drums until they break and who also likes to shatter glass with a hideous shrieking, is one such character. Another is Musiker Meyn, a trumpet player. Both are themselves part Pied Pipers and part survivors. There is also a madman, a holy fool sort of half-wit, known as Schugger-Leo. In addition, there are observant little people in a circus troupe, particularly Roswitha Raguna and Bebra, their ringleader. All of these fringe characters give much of the story an outsider's perspective that helps spotlight the tribal core's mass psychology -- and mass delusion. 

Finally, let me note the excellent effect on The Tin Drum made by the background music created by Maurice Jarre (1924-2009). Every time I hear wind chimes, I hear echoes of Jarre's work. Hardly an obscure musician, Jarre won three Oscars for original music scores during his career.

Today's Rune: Defense.    


Charles Gramlich said...

I watched this many many years ago and didn't care much for it at the time. I wonder if I'd feel differently today.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Yet another film that I never got around to seeing. I should finally correct that, although I am afraid that I would be traumatized by the shrieking character, whose younger sister has evidently moved in next door to me.