The Tin Drum (2007)
By: David Michael Brown on January 24, 2008  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Umbrella Entertainment (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 1.66:1 (16:9 ehnaced). German DD 5.1, German DD 2.0 Mono. English Subtitles. 136 minutes
The Movie
Director: Volker Schlöndorff
Starring: David Bennet, Mario Adorf, Angela Winkler
Writer: Jean-Claude Carriere, Volker Schlöndorff, Franz Seitz
Country: Germany
Having won the Palme d'Or at the 1979 Cannes Film Festival and the 1979 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language film you would think that the release of Volker Schlöndorff's adaptation of Nobel laureate Günter Grass' The Tin Drum would receive nothing but aclaim and applause. Not so in the US State of Oklamhoma when the film was removed from all video store shelves in 1997; years after the film's initial release, the film was proclaimed obscene for its aledged depiction of child pornography. These spurious claims are of course ridiculous; yes the film is confronting in its potrayal of a young boys life but when compared with films like In The Realm of the Senses it is tame in its imagery. Add to this the fact the young boy is portraying someone whose years far outweigh his dimutive size and stature and you realise that the authorities had no comprehension of what this film is really about.

The Tin Drum is unlike any film you will have seen before and will definitely explode any preconceptions you have of what to expect from German cinema. It's a surreal concoction of black comedy, searing melodrama and scathing political comment. The 11 year old David Bennett gives a bravaura performance in the middle of it all as Oskar. Oskar, is a young boy not happy with the adult world around him. Born in the Germany town of Danzig in 1925, the Second World War is looming and his dysfunctional family offer him no protection. On his third birthday he receives a tin drum and at this moment decides he will not grow up. From this point on he bangs his drum constantly whenever he is upset, if anyone tries to take his instrument away from him he lets out a blood curdling, high pitched scream that can shatter glass. A talent that doesn't go unnoticed when he joins the Nazi party and becomes part of a travelling entertainment troupe with a group of like minded dwarfs. At the age of twenty one he has at last found a group of people who accept him for who he is but the tragedy of the war is never far away.

From the moment of the characters birth through to his untimely demise, just as he has realised he is finally ready to join the adult world, Bennett is rarely off camera. His perfromance is so mesmerising, especially when he screams, that you just can't take your eyes away from the screen, no matter what you are watching. He went on to appear in Ridly Scott's Legend but it's a shame Bennet has remained so underused as an actor.

The imagery is fabulous, the juxtaposition of the dwarf circus and their Nazi regalia is particularily effective. This epic saga covers so much ground its almost to hard to know where to begin and some may find the sprawling storyline unengaging. In fact, despite Bennet's brilliant performance, Oskar is an annoying, unlovable child; its no wonder everyone tries to stop him banging his drum. This is, however, a film that has to be seen, its importance in the history of German cinema and its place in the history of American censorship have ensured that. Politics, war, sex and violence; what more does a film need to keep the drum rolling.
The film has been given a beautiful transfer, sharp, clear and colourful; it s a joy to watch.
Again an excellent job; there isn't too much happening in the surround tracks but Maurice Jarre's excellent score is given a sonic wonderful make over.
Extra Features
The excellent double disc set includes a fantastic 52 minute documentary on the films problems in the States called Banned in Oklahoma. The film covers The Tin Drum's troubles when the makers of the film were charged with child pornography in 1997 resulting in an Oscar winning film being banned for six years. We also get a 42 minute interview, in English, with the director and the theatrical trailer.
The Verdict
It's not that often that a film lives up to the hype; controversy has haunted The Tin Drum from the moment it was released. In most cases like these, when you finally get to witness the film first hand it results in a shrug of the shoulders and a "was that it?" The Tin Drum on the other hand is a different and anyone seeing the film for the first time is in for a spectacular, surreal treat.
Movie Score
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