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on June 2, 2004
I read the book two weeks ago and have just viewed the Criterion Collection DVD. I found the book to be complex, rich, insightful, puzzling, and surreal. I loved it. This film comes as close as any film could to the spirit of the novel and still be under 3 hours long.
Oskar is born to three parents who, like the Gdansk they live in, represent 3 ethnic groups: Pole, Kashubian, and German. He is fully conscious at birth and is presented with two paths for his life - one as a shopkeeper and one as a musician. While the people of 1930's Gdansk/Danzig feel forced to choose ethnic sides and mundane occupations, Oskar rejects the "stupid" adult world. He stops growing and learns to assert some control over adults through his drumming and vocal talents.
One of my favorite sections of the book is when he musically subverts a large Nazi rally. Not only was this well done in the movie but was worked into a bonus feature that had Grass reading the book chapter while we watch the corresponding section of the film. The words of the spoken German as well as the subtitled English translation have a lot of power and poetry - this feature is a very rare treat.
You also experience in the film something Schl?ndorff confirms in interviews: it is hard to imagine this film existing without David Bennent. His voice and eyes carry so much of this film. The short interview feature with Bennent is delightful.
I thought the bonus feature on the Oklahoma censorship was interesting and somewhat balanced in that it portrayed the zealousness on both sides. However, I would have preferred to see more of Grass or material on the creative efforts of the film.
On a more serious note, I find Oskar's indictment of society very compelling. Something about the way the film brings themes to life (more than the book) makes 1939 Germany frightenly parallel to the US of 2004. In Oskar's world, the people in power make false claims in order to invade other countries, human rights abuses increase and all objections are shouted away with "patriotic" speeches and political rallys. For the most part people remain ignorant or apathetic to the suffering their government officials are causing. (Perhaps we need a few Oskars drumming at the democratic and republican conventions this summer.)
The film stands very well on its own but I would encourage people to read the book first. The book is more complex, covers more years of Oskar's life and it develops some important ideas that are not at first obvious in the film. For example, as Oskar ages he still looks 3 years old and he consciously exploits this by manipulating the adults around him by behaving more childish than he really is. There is also an interesting theme in the book related to Rasputin and Goethe.
It is also worthwhile to do a little browsing on the web for historical material related to Gdansk/Danzig, Kashubia and the large population resettlements after wars in this area. The excellent bonus features also explore the themes of the film and add a lot of value.
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on November 23, 1999
I saw this movie back in 1983. I was only 9 years old but the movie to this day left an indelible impression on me. It was sad, yet humorous. Some parts make you go a little bug-eyed but that's all part of the surrealism of this movie. The young actor who played Oskar was amazing. Obviously you could tell he was just a child but I could actually see him as an adult as the movie goes on. I'm not in the habit of seeing foreign language films. In fact, I can honestly say that I've seen only a handful of them. This was my first German language film and I can safely say it was my favorite. Buy this video. You will not regret it. Its that amazing.
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on December 21, 2000
Schlondorff brought a superb cast together to tell the story of Oskar, who ceases to grow beyond his three year old size; a symbolic representation of Germany in the twentieth century. Oskar's mother is courted by a German and a Pole. Gunther Grass's allegorical solution to the wrenching of national borders and ethnic shuffling brought about by World War I is to show the mother, unable to choose between her lovers, choosing them both. One becomes the father of Oskar. Which one? Does it matter? Thus Oskar arrives amidst the confusion of the twenties, only to witness the degradation of the homeland by revolution, runaway inflation and finally, the steady growth of National Socialism through the thirties. Oskar mirrors the turmoil of Germany's struggle of the twentieth century, unable to free itself from its own dream of Teutonic superiority, unable to find peace in the national soul. View this work with an eye to the inadequacies of your own country and begin to see Gunter Grass's dilemma with his.
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on June 18, 1999
I've watched the Tin Drum several times, and have learned new things with each viewing. I own the VHS and the DVD version. The DVD is superior because it offers a behind the scenes feature, and also a Director's Commentary from Director Volker Schlondorff which is very good. The story deals with a little boy named Oskar who decides on his third birthday after receiving a tin drum, to stop physically growing. There's much more to the plot, but that's just the gist of it. Fine acting by the entire cast also. A movie that should be seen.
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on January 31, 1999
This movie was fantastic. I read the book first and loved every word of it. The only reason the book is better than the movie is because, sad to say, is that the movie was only half the book. When I first got the movie and watched it, I couldnt wait until the pivetal point in the movie where the main character drastically changes, but when that part came it was the end of the movie. This would have been a GREAT GREAT movie classic if the director made a longer more fuller version or a second film that ended the full story of the book. But I must say the actor who played Oscar, the main character, was exactly as I envisioned. I highly recommend you buy the book first and then the movie, but both are a MUST to anyone who likes a bit of the strange.
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on September 22, 2004
The Tin Drum is based on Gunther Grass's Nobel winning novel. The whole setting revolves around the most tumultous period in recent German history, spanning from the late 19th century till the end of the second World War, Germany had seen boundaries and name drawn and redrawn numerous times. Not to mention the various follies of wars that had ravaged the country. Oskar, the perpetual 3 year old kid, who refused to grow after observing the immorality that adulthood has to offer. Oskar represented the conscience of the ordinary German of that era. Being impassive, and at the same time bitter and vulnerable and again embittered (especially after the armistice treaty), Oskar presented a whole range of emotions that reflects the public mood of that period.

The DVD presents a beautiful transfer and a Dolby Digital 5:1 audio track. It also comes with an enlightening audio commentary by the director and co-writer, even though at times the commentary may seem bland and screen specific. Nevertheless, it's insightful in the discussion of the production of the film. Another noteworthy extra feature in the 2nd disc is the documentary "Banned in Oklahoma", which chronicled the banning of the film in that state and its ensuing consequences to the country's values of freedom and liberty.
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on November 3, 2013
After reading the book, I really enjoyed the movie. I think if you had not read the book, the movie might be less appealing and some might find the movie a little strange (or a lot.) The depth of the book brings out the symbolism and political meanings, etc. While the movie really brings out the visuals and maybe turns it more into an enjoyable "story" . The movie follows the book very well. Nearly all scenes are included except for a few. The movie ends earlier than the book. ........Spoiler Alert................. The movie ends right after Oskar tosses the drum in the grave, gets hit with the rock and commences growing again. I thought the last scene of the movie with the train pulling away from the field (where the movie opens) was very good. I actually liked the ending of the movie better than the book. As much as I liked the book, I did tend to think it would never end. I think the post war chapters with Oskar's hunchback, posing for the art class, and sneaking into the nurse's apartment was too much of the same... these chapters are not in the movie.

While reading the book, I really viewed Oskar as an adult in the last half of the book. Although in the movie it is very difficult to do this, since it is a small child actor. In this regard, the book was better.

In another regard, I give the edge to the movie in how they had WWII footage interlaced with the plot. While reading the book, I sometimes forgot there was a war going on - and a very large one at that. I think the movie did a nice job of reminding you of the seriousness of this war while the antics of the characters was going on.

All in all, I thought this movie was very good particularly for those who liked the book. Unlike many movies based on novels, this one does not disappoint you....
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on June 18, 1999
The Tin Drum is a movie that you can watch more than once and find something new each time. One of the best films I've seen and the cast does an excellent job; especially the boy who plays little Oskar. A movie that deals with many things, and truly is worth a viewing from anyone that likes films that make you think.
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on January 1, 2012
Oskar Matzerath,the precocious protagonist who refuses to grow up,in Volker Schlondorff's 1979 film,Tin Drum,is an unreliable narrator.This is Gunther Grass's own childhood,but he grew:that's how he ended up wanting to partake in the war.The film captures much of the novel's picaresque energy and surrealism.It opens with Oskar's grandmother sitting in a muddy field heating potatoes.She is impregnated with Oskar's mother by Joseph,the man on the run from the police,hiding under her skirt.Oskar always speaks off screen,often in the 3rd person, sometimes in the 1st,you don't really know where this voice is coming from.The reason-he is pretending to be a 3 year old.You see a child, but with the brain of a grown-up.His shrieking angry little voice is the opposite of what you expect.

David Bennent gives an eerie performance.Like a doe-eyed child,but with a maturity and aloof quality.When he's not shattering glass,his behaviour is more restrained than that of the adults around him,including his 2 father figures: his mother's grocer husband Alfred,who becomes an enthusiastic Nazi,and Oskar's heroic uncle,Jan, who takes part in the defence of the Polish post office in Danzig in 1939-one of the 1st battles of WWII.Oskar's 2 father figures show different aspects of Grass's own character.The ambivalence to the Nazis are like the passages in Grass's memoir,Peeling the Onion(2006) in which he seeks belatedly to justify his wartime behaviour.In The Tin Drum,Grass was lambasted for writing in too brazen and open a way about the Nazi era.We now know Grass's admission he had been a member as a teenager of the Waffen SS.Was he the nation's bad conscience or was he expiating his own pettiness?Driven by guilt to write The Tin Drum to exorcise the demons?

Schlondorff said Nazism was a consequence of the failure of the Weimar Republic.The large middle class were excluded from any participation in its affairs.Oskar is a representative.He has this incredible urge for power.He feels enormous,but he's a dwarf.So he's the symbol of his class but he would like to be the one in command,but there's the Fuhrer.His scream is because he'd like to be no.1.This child-like behaviour is acceptable from a child, but not from grown-ups:then it becomes infantile,diminishing.Oskar resents the display.He thinks he's in the true world.In the bandstand scene he's not resisting the Nazis but power of any kind.Objects take on a big significance. The universe of Oskar is a universe of toys.The whole universe should look like a toy;his drum the no.1 toy.

Food is important.It comes to an extreme when his mum kills herself.Eels coming from the horse's head like after-birth. She eats fish,gets sick,eats more fish because of her guilt.Fish is the symbol of her Christianity.The sexual scenes are central to the kind of world Oskar is born into.How his mother was born.We see Oskar in the womb,planning his entry into the fallen world.His mother's adultery is something he's aware of when she leaves him in the toyshop.He climbs to the roof and screams shattering all the windows of the building opposite.Frustration makes Oskar beat his drum or scream.The new director's cut has over 20 minutes of scenes the director was obliged to cut in 1979.The running time is at 163 minutes in the new cut, Schlondorff is clarifying the '79 cut.

Casting a twelve-year-old boy (David Bennent) as Oskar, the director fashioned "world history experienced from below," from the perspective of a small rebel armed with a drum and graced with a voice that breaks glass. A twisted variation on the German Bildungsroman, Oskar's education between the fronts of German and Polish history becomes an exercise in alienation and deformation. The youth refuses to accommodate himself to the status quo and compels himself to stop growing at the age of three. His fulsome drumming beats against the tenor of the times and his shrill scream poses a public menace. The film imbues the boy's negativity with a subversive power; his acts of refusal both issue from and militate against the experience of history.Worth seeing for the extra scenes which add
new light to this old material.
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on October 30, 2015
Gaunter Grass has a very strange mind. If you know the book this movie is most fantastic, it gives some visual images for your minds eye to use, and enriches your thinking. Honestly after reading The Tin Drum, I am a fan of rasputin and the ladies. In other words seriously bent. If you see the movie you will want to read the book. It took a german to direct and make this film, an English dub might be okay but is not necessary, nicht war.
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