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The Tin Drum (1979)

Die Blechtrommel (original title)
R | | Drama, War | 11 April 1980 (USA)
In 1924, Oskar Matzerath is born in the Free City of Danzig. At age three, he falls down a flight of stairs and stops growing. In 1939, World War II breaks out.
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ON DISC
Won 1 Oscar. Another 15 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Alfred Matzerath
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Agnes Matzerath
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Oskar Matzerath
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Maria Matzerath
...
Jan Bronski
Tina Engel ...
Anna Koljaiczek (jung)
Berta Drews ...
Anna Koljaiczek
Roland Teubner ...
Joseph Koljaiczek
Tadeusz Kunikowski ...
Onkel Vinzenz
...
Lina Greff (as Andréa Ferreol)
...
Greff
Ilse Pagé ...
Gretchen Scheffler
Werner Rehm ...
Scheffler
Käte Jaenicke ...
Mutter Truczinski
Helmut Brasch ...
Der Alte Heilandt (as Helmuth Brasch)
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Storyline

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 Anonymous

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Academy Award Winner Best Foreign Language Film 1979 See more »

Genres:

Drama | War

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Language:

| | | | |

Release Date:

11 April 1980 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Tin Drum  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (director's cut) | (1980 cut)

Sound Mix:

(35 mm prints)| (70 mm prints)

Color:

| (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.20 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

There are several references (on the English soundtrack/ subtitles) to 'Kashubians'. Jan Bronski is referred as a Kashubian by Alfred Matzerath. Kahsubia is an ethnic group, centred on north-central Poland, with the nominal capital being Gdansk (Danzig). Kashubians were considered by the Nazis as of German stock/ extraction. See more »

Goofs

While the German soldiers besiege the Polish post office, a German soldier is seen firing an MG42 machine gun from his shoulder. The weapon itself was not in use by the German army before 1942, while the scene in the film takes place in 1939. Additionally, the weapon is not supposed to be fired standing as depicted, and the film shows the wrong sound and firing cadence for the weapon. See more »

Quotes

Agnes Matzerath: Don't expect me to touch your eels.
Alfred Matzerath: Don't put on airs.
Agnes Matzerath: I'll never eat fish again. Certainly not eels.
Alfred Matzerath: You've always eaten them, and you knew where they came from!
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Connections

Featured in Die Nacht der Regisseure (1995) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Absorbing and Thought Provoking
5 August 2002 | by (Vancouver, B.C.) – See all my reviews

"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" - Oskar Metzertath

The Tin Drum is based on Gunter Grass's highly acclaimed novel which used magic realism to capture the madness of war, and the folly of the people who made it possible. This movie only tackles the first two sections of the novel, leaving out the post-war events. The film won the Academy Award for Best Foreign film in 1980, and the Palm d'Or at Cannes. It was also banned in Oklahoma as "child pornography". Despite moments of brilliance, The Tin Drum left me feeling incomplete and curiously unmoved.

It is a very different kind of film from the others I saw this week, using satire and surrealism to explore people's reactions during the period from 1939 to 1945. It seems to be saying that it is all right to stop growing (that is, participating in the world) as a protest against the cynicism and corruption of the adult world. The setting for the majority of the film, Danzig (now Gdansk) is a major northern port town in Poland. Danzig was a free and independent city until September 1, 1939, when it became the first region taken by Germany at the outset of WWII. After the war, Danzig became a part of Poland again.

The Tin Drum is the story of Oskar Matzerath, a boy who grows up in Eastern Germany before and during World War II. Oskar decides the only way to protest being part of the adult world is by banging on his drum and remaining a child forever. This is his rebuttal of society and his tin drum is his protest against the mentality of his family and neighborhood, or perhaps against all passive people in Nazi Germany at that time. Oskar tries to shock the world out of its inhumanity. His life reflects Germany's struggle to free itself from its own dream of Teutonic superiority and find peace in the national soul.

David Bennent as Oskar gives an outstanding performance, creating a character that is both haunting and frightening. He looks like a little man in a child's body but his eyes are deep and have a very knowing look that seemed to be looking right through me.

Oskar is not a cute little updated version of Peter Pan. Since age three (when he was given his first tin drum), Oskar can scream with such a high pitch that he can shatter any piece of glass. He even controls his scream to the point where he can break windows on the other side of the city, or etch writing into glass. Oskar uses his ability to manipulate and control the adult world, often using vicious and cynical snide comments about the insanity around him. At one point, he disrupts a Nazi rally by changing the beat of his tin drum to the Blue Danube which the band then follows. The ensuing scene where the crowd breaks into a dance and the rain comes down leaving the Nazi soldiers bewildered is one of the best in the film.

I found the scenes where Oskar joins a midget troupe and finds loving companions of his own kind to be very tender and moving. However, the film became morally ambiguous for me when Oskar and his troupe decide to entertain the Nazi soldiers at the front lines. Schlondorff never really makes it clear what his motivations are and Oskar's actions seems to contradict his essentially anarchist protest for most of the film. The Tin Drum also contains some objectionable scenes of childhood sexuality and grotesque depictions of slithering eels being caught using a severed horse head as bait. The result, needless to say, is stomach churning.

I found The Tin Drum to be absorbing and thought provoking yet, despite moments of brilliance, for me it did not add up to a totally satisfying experience.


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