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Danzig in the 1920s/1930s. Oskar Matzerath, son of a local dealer, is a most unusual boy. Equipped with full intellect right from his birth he decides at his third birthday not to grow up as he sees the crazy world around him at the eve of World War II. So he refuses the society and his tin drum symbolizes his protest against the middle-class mentality of his family and neighborhood, which stand for all passive people in Nazi Germany at that time. However, (almost) nobody listens to him, so the catastrophe goes on... Written by
"That day, thinking about the grown-up world and my own future, I decided to call a halt. To stop growing then and there and remain a three-year-old, a gnome, once and for all"
Goodness, what a marvel this film is! It is certainly the greatest film from Germany that I have seen yet. Winner of the 1979 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, "The Tin Drum" follows the life of a boy named Oskar. After seeing how ludicrous adults act, Oskar decides to stop his growth, and stay three years old forever by falling down the stairs. He succeeds, and the fall has stopped his growth. Aside from the hault of growth, the fall eqips him with two special powers that he regularly manifests. The lesser of these two powers, is repeatedly pounding his tin drum, which he absolutely refuses to let go of. Oskar's undeniable power is to let out a high pitched shriek that will shatter any glass he directs it at. Does it sound strange? Well, the film is much stranger, but also much more beautiful than my description.
The film follows our little Oscar over a period of around two decades, through World War II in Germany. We follow Oskar through his many sexual, emotional, tragic, funny, and beautiful exploits. An absolutely important credit must be given to actor David Bennett, who plays young Oskar. He portrays Oskar as an infant, as a three year-old, as a six year-old, as a twelve year-old, as a 16 year-old, as a 21 year-old...well, you get the picture. Bennett was only 11 at the time, and his performance is very impressive.
I haven't seen very many German films from the last thirty years, but most of the ones I have seen (the excellent "Vanishing," and the immensely mediocre "White Rose") haven't had very good scores. "The Tin Drum" has a very slight, but very servicable, score by the famous Maurice Jarre. The score has an emotional theme played in only a few scenes (notably, the ending), it also has an innocent little music box theme, and surprisingly a cool waltz for scenes involving members of the circus (a big part of the second-half of the film). A very good score. To my knowledge, it was released on LP when the film was released, and on a CD pressed in Japan sometime in the 90's. I read that the (sadly out of print) Kino DVD includes the isolated score as an extra.
It's an excellent film that I strongly connected with, but I can see many people not liking it, it is VERY strange, but I am somebody who has always found VERY strange things extremely beautiful, and "The Tin Drum" is no exception. Over-all, I consider this film a classic, and I'll once again state that it is certainly the greatest film from Germany that I have seen yet.
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