The Tin Drum Screen 6 articles

The Tin Drum

1979

The Tin Drum Poster
  • While Oskar is a sphinxlike contradiction, Schlöndorff has a tendency to sketch the rest of the cast as simple grotesques or symbols of decadence that are unconvincingly humanized in the final third.

  • Schlöndorff stumbled onto an amazing kid to play Oskar, and his thousand-yard stare does a reasonable job of filling the gaps. Actually casting a 3-year-old would have been impossible, but David Bennent, who was 12 when the movie was shot but looks significantly younger (he apparently suffered from a medical condition that temporarily stunted his growth), adroitly captures a 3-year-old’s solipsistic conviction that the entire world is his personal playground.

  • Schlöndorff seems to be striving to make the parodic art film of the period, dwarfs and hallucinatory visions and all. David Bennent was a steely child actor, his monologue on the push and pull between Rasputin and Goethe chill-inducing, and the final shot — train pulling out in fields of wheat — is drop-dead pastoral gorgeous, but much of this kitsch. Fortunately, not boring: it's got energy to spare, leavening the potential stupor while it diligently marches through the narrative.

  • For all his dignified justifications, Oskar’s super-baby status leaves him utterly detached from any semblance of humanity. His family may be weak, fickle and ridiculous, but at least they’re trying. Excluding himself from those failures by hiding in his own pre-rational infallibility, he’s not man pretending to be a baby, he’s a baby who’s somehow rationalized his choice to arrest his own development, devoting all his energy toward Id fulfillment while cowering beneath his grandmother’s skirts.

  • Schlöndorff's, and Grass's, great feat is having Oskar emerge as a creature all his own. He doesn't succumb to political euphoria, worshipping Hitler, but instead uses his musical gift to confound a youth orchestra at a Nazi fête so that an orderly lineup of military salutes is soon swaying and prancing to a new beat.

  • Schlöndorff has expressed the hope that the term director’s cut will soon be forgotten and that this longer version will simply become the standard. In whatever version it is shown, however, The Tin Drum is surely its director’s masterpiece—a truly disarming film that, taking its cue from William Blake, could be called an essay on both innocence and experience, on childlike idealism and a very adult depravity.

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