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die blechtrommel
(1979)

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           the
           tin drum
the tin drum

t h e   t i n   d r u m  :   m a k i n g  ]


"Gunter Grass' international fame owed everything to this film."
- Paul Page


credits | making | books | dvds | videos
the tin drum
marlene dietrich | josef von sternberg | fritz lang
adolf hitler | leni riefenstahl | conrad veidt | wim wenders


the tin drum



    credits

    germany, 1979

    running time: 142 mins
    colour

    directed:

      Volker Schorloff, 1979

    prod co:
      Franz Seitz Film/Bioskop Film/GGB 14 KG/Hallelujah Film/Artemis Film/Argos Film/in association with Jadran Film and Film Polski

    exec prod:
      Anatole Dauman

    prod:
      Franz Seitz

    sc:
      Jean-Claude Carriere, Franz Seitz, Volker Schlondorff, from the novel by Gunter Grass

    photo (eastman color):
      Igor Luther

    ed:
      Suzanne Baron

    prod des:
      Nicos Perakis

    art dir:
      Bernd Lepel

    music:
      Maurice Jarre

    ass dir:
      Branco Lustig, Alexander von Richthofen, Wolfgang Kroke, Andrzej Reiter, Richard Malbequi

    german title:
      Die Blechtrommel

    us and uk title:
      The Tin Drum

    cast:
    David Bennett (Oskar)
    Mario Adorf (Alfred Matzerath)
    Angela Winkler (Agnes Matzerath)
    Daniel Olbrychski (Jan Bronski)
    Katharina Thalbach (Maria Matzerath)
    Heinz Bennett (Greff)
    Andrea Ferreol (Lina Greff)
    Fritz Hakl (Bebra)
    Mariella Oliveri (Roswitha Raguna)
    Tina Engel (Anna Koljaiczec as a young woman)
    Berta Drews (Anna Koljaiczec as an old women)
    Roland Teubner (Joseph Koljaiczec)
    Tadeusz Kunikowski (Uncle Vinzenz)
    Ernst Jacobi (Gauleiter Lobsack)
    Werner Rehm (Scheffler, the Baker)
    Ilse Page (Gretchen Scheffler)
    Kate Jaenicke (Mather Truczinski)
    Helmuth Brasch (Heilandt)
    Wigand Witting (Herbert Truczinski)


    the tin drum

    die blechtrommel

    The Tin Drum is probably the best known novel in post-war German literature and the one that elevated its author, Gunter Grass, to international fame. But Grass's reputation was established in the sixties when there was hardly any German cinema to speak of. As the 'New German Cinema' began to emerge in the Seventies, Grass received numerous offers to adapt The Tin Drum for the screen; however it was not until he was approached by the director Volker Schlondorf and the producer Anatole Dauman that he felt satisfied enough to accept.

    Volker Schlondorf had been involved from the start with the movement towards an new German cinema and among his early films Der Junge Torless (1966 Young Torless) testified to his understanding of the pre-Nazi period of German history. Furthermore, his historical drama Der plotzliche Reichtum der armen, Leute von Kombach (1971, The Sudden Fortune of the Poor People of Kombach) showed the insight into a peasant community that was to stand him im good stead for The Tin Drum.

    Grass himself collabrated on the adaption of his novel for the screen, but many new ideas emanated from Jean-Claude Carriere, a regular screenwriter for the director Luis Bunuel, who brought his own surrealistic perspective to the story. The central theme of both novel and film is the decision of the boy Oskar not to grow up - his refusal to accept 'adult' society in all its bizarre behaviour. And Schlondorff frequently offers the audience Oskar's viewpoint (for instance much of the film is shot at knee level), thus translating the world of 'grown-ups' into a bizarre pantomime of sexual and political exploitation that sometimes reaches grotesque proportions. He succeeds in creating an image of the world which is peopled by grotesque marionettes with overblown ambitions and inflated desires. In the same way, the touring circus act that Oskar joins during World War II offers a commentary on wartime that is all the more telling for being 'distorted' or parodied by dwarfs.

    In this context, the style of the film emerges as more mythological than the easy blend of nostalgia and naturalism normally associated woth films about this period. When Oskar interrupts a Nazi rally by beating his drum, the scene also functions on a level of fantasy. Similarly the compelling opening sequence in which the fugitive soldier hides beneath the woman's skirts conveys both the 'legend' of Oskar's parentage and the earthy realism appropriate to the location and period. Yet although The Tin Drum may look as if it is structured solely around a number of potent and striking images - most memorably the horse's head that is pulled out of the sea crawling with live eels - it is nonetheless an impressively coherent narrative, especially considering the daunting task of adapting a book of just under six hundred pages.

    As for the performances there is no doubt that David Bennett's portrayal of Oskar is unique. Schlondorf knew that the part could not be played by a dwarf if audiences were to achieve the vital sense of empathy and hostility towards the character. Moreover Grass was insistent that Oskar was portrayed not as a dwarf but as a child that ceased to grow. A child actor was the only solution and when Schlondorf discovered that the actor Heinz Bennett (with whom he had worked before) had a son of 12 whose facial features were years in advance of the rest of his body, the casting problem was solved. Ironically the arrested development that David Bennett genuinely suffers from rendered it impossible for him to play Oskar as a mature adult in post-war Germany and Schlondorf had to abandon his original plan of following the novel right through to its conclusion.

    Apparently very satisfied with the film's successful transition from book to screen, Gunter Grass has gone on to enjoy a revival in popularity, assisted by the fact that the film won the Best Foreign Film Oscar for 1979. The re-creation of Grass's native city of Danzig (now Gdansk) is a fine testimony to Igor Luther's photography (making effective use of strong autumnal light to it exteriors) and to the art direction of Bernd Lepel. Visually the film is breathtaking and the occasional appearance of present-day features in the landscapes only serves to underline the contemporary relevance of the film's message.





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    credits | making | books | dvds | videos
    the tin drum
    marlene dietrich | josef von sternberg | fritz lang
    adolf hitler | leni riefenstahl | conrad veidt | wim wenders

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