• Daniel Morawitz

The Tin Drum: 40 Year Anniversary 4k Release- Review

It’s been 40 years since for the first time a German language film has won the Foreign-Language Oscar. 40 years since this filmed shared the prestigious Palm D’Or with Apocalypse Now. Now audiences have the chance to catch the newly restored 4k version on the big screen, where they will be able to relive the film again or for the first time and judge for themselves, if this film has stood the test of time.

The Tin Drum was as mentioned a huge success; however, it was also accompanied by a great deal of controversy. Some readers might be familiar with the story, which centers around Oskar, a boy who doesn’t want to grow up, and is stuck with his premature appearance while his thoughts, desires and fantasies develop naturally. Its important to note that this film is based on the novel of the same name by author Günter Grass and features autobiographical elements of his life growing up.

One thing that became very clear when the first images popped up on the screen, was that this film is ambitious and it tries, with every frame, to impress the audience through its incredibly complex and detailed cinematography. Its been a while since I watched a European production that looked so expensive, so big in scope and which tries to inject such visual prowess into the mise en image. Igor Luther helmed the camera and together with his gaffers, electricians and assistant camera departments, he crafted one of the single most impressive European productions put to screen. It is therefore shocking to me that he wasn’t even nominated for the Oscar in best cinematography. Thanks to the impeccable restoration efforts, Luthers images are a sight to behold and look as if they were taken today, which is also archived through intelligent blocking and motivated camera movements. As Volker Schlöndorff mentioned in a Q and A which was streamed live into the theater after the film ended, making this film as visually stunning as it is takes mainly two things: time and money.

The Tin Drum has as mentioned garnered its fair share of controversies, especially the depiction of underage sexuality. We must keep in mind that when Oskar is experiencing his first sexual encounters, his character is already 16. At the same time, the actor portraying the character was only 12 when making this film, which is where things get tricky. I just want to touch upon this issue without getting too much into it. I personally thought that it was very tastefully made and didn’t fetishize the young actors’ bodies nor did Schlöndorff inject any moral high ground into the scenes. It is from a voyeurs perspective, but in a way where the audience is not welcomed, its supposed to feel abstract and uncomfortable and, quite frankly, disgusting.

The Tin Drum is in terms of formal presentation outstanding. The production design, the sets, the costumes and the effects are of the highest artistic level and seemed to have been a logistical nightmare to bring together in this way, as is the case with a lot of period pieces. What stands out rather unfortunate is the sloppy ADR work, which sounds too clear for the pre-digital sound design. The voices don’t sink up with the actors’ mouth which can destroy some of the immersion and believability in the performances. Fortunately, this doesn’t concern David Bennet, who delivers one of the all-time greatest child performances- or performances in general.

Schlöndorff created a truly impressive German film, one which will undoubtedly spark curiosity and shock in the years to come, as it still does 40 years later. It’s a film that is overwhelming, loud and for the most part uncomfortable to watch, and the dramaturgy is at times in a fight with the thematic standpoint and the rather unorthodox storytelling, particularly the narration. It also features harsh editing choices and performances that feel too artificial and over-the-top in the context of the story.

And yet, with all that being said, its still a film that demands to be seen, with all its glorious and confusing components, it remains a unique and unforgettable film-experience

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