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on modern "boats" life isn't easy- but compared to the living hell that the German U-Boats were, modern submariners have nothing to complain about. People in certain professions don't like to watch movies about those professions (Doctors and Nurses shy away from hospital dramas, for example). Submarine sailors are different. We love to watch every submarine movie ever made, from "Run Silent, Run Deep" and "Destination: Tokyo" to "The Hunt For Red October", "Crimson Tide" and "U-571". Why? Because we can always use a good laugh. For those in the know, submarine movies are usually absolutely hilarious. Except this one. After being in the Navy for four years, serving with around 350 different men, and being acquainted with a further 200-300, all of them submarine sailors, I think that I can state with absolute certainty that this film is the ONLY submarine movie that ALL submariners take seriously. And that is the highest praise a movie like this can possibly get.
Das Boot is not just a great war film: it's a great film period. Maybe it is
true that epic themes make the greatest novels and films. Here is a movie
that explores heroism, duty, patriotism, hope, fear and the futility of
war--all grand themes--explored in the confined, and collapsing, spaces of a
I saw this film when I was a freshman in college during a weekend that I later dubbed my "depressing movie festival." (The Wall and Apocalypse Now were the other weekend "entries.") Of these films, it was Das Boot that haunted me--when I laid down at night, I saw Jurgen Proctow's pained blue eyes. When I woke in the morning, I felt as if I were escaping through the hatch of the submarine. I could not shake the images, and now some fifteen years later, I still remember how completely meaningless the movie made everything seem, and the nihilistic message stayed with me for a long, long time. How few films are there which affect the viewers on this level. To say this film is "powerful" seems so weak a description.
Part of the "power" of the film comes, I think, from a certain restraint in the direction. So often, films which aspire to move the audience quickly fall into melodrama, over-acting, and overblown images. Too much. These often succeed in the immediate response (usually crying) but fail to impact the viewer on anything more than a surface level. Here, it is the small moments which fill the screen. Everywhere, all around is War, but for these men as we witness them, war does not begin with a capital "W". It is reality, not a grand concept. The director lets the story shock and horrify the audience, not by forcing it, but by letting the story just tell itself. Drama, tension and resolution occur naturally in Das Boot, which contributes to the very real impact of the film.
Story is a 10, direction is a 10, acting is a 10 and the cinematography is a 10. One of the all-time greatest films.
What impresses me the most about the film, as the title makes apparent,
is that it's a German made film about a German U-boat. Patriotism for
my own country would tend to make me hate the crew on this ship by
definition (especially if portrayed as typical mindless killing machine
Nazis), but these characters are so well developed and played like
human-beings facing difficult decisions that I find myself sympathizing
with these guys.
I love the flow and pacing of the Director's Cut; it takes its time, and does not feel like typical Hollywood formula "first major plot point at minute 12" cookie-cutter routine. Das Boot gives us plenty of time to know these characters, discover how they kill time while waiting for orders, how they feel about their job and each other. Then when the action finally starts: how they deal with the possibility of dying deep underwater, how they react to the sounds of a sub going deeper than it should, the look on their faces as a destroyer is heard pinging them, and dozens of little personality quirks--subtle details that bring the crew to life. It truly does feel like an epic about a submarine crew, and I'm interested in some day viewing the 6 hour TV version.
The underwater battles somewhat remind me of Sergio Leone in that Wolfgang Peterson takes forever and a day to get the fights started. Unlike Leone, once the torpedos are launched and the depth charges dropped, the cat-and-mouse game is ongoing and relentless, but never boring.
And despite the fact that most of the film takes place inside a cramped submarine, Das Boot is never boring to look at; in fact, it's a visually spectacular film (given the dated special effects, who hold up reasonably well and add to the old-school charm). And the freedom of the camera in those tight corridors came as an incredibly pleasant surprise. The color and composition of the shots in those tight quarters -- particularly upon approaching the first destroyer when we get the first real glimpse of the interior prepped for war -- it is both haunting and beautiful.
Jurgen Prochnow delivers the most believable performance of a ship captain I've ever seen on film. All the emotions register on his face--his concern for his own life, ship, and crew; his hatred for the decisions he's forced to make; the disbelieving joy of beating the overwhelming odds--while simultaneously holding it back so the crew sees a strong unmoving man forever in control of the situation. His performance is, in a word, brilliant.
The rest of the cast also delivers amazingly believable performances, and trust me, I could write an entire review on the film's characters and their portrayals. It's both disappointing and satisfying that I'm not given enough space to do so (I wish I could state that about a tenth of the films I've reviewed here on IMDb.) I liked the entire crew of this U-boat, the war correspondent and his character arc as he realizes the truth behind these "heroes", the chief and his longing to return to his wife, Johann and the story of his redemption--all well cast, well acted, and believable.
Another aspect I adored about Das Boot - the controversial scenes simply rolled by with no more or less emphasis than any other statement the film makes. In fact, I saw the film before really reading anything or researching it and found myself somewhat shocked to hear about these "talked about" scenes. Granted, the film does pose some moral questions, but I felt the film handled it with grace and great subtlety, showing what it needs to get the point across and not a step further . . . unlike typical Hollywood where controversy gets bold print, italics, and a highlighter. Maybe I should move to Germany.
I can go on for a long while: Over three hours of wonderful visuals and strong performances, a sparse but great score (this film's lack of music is quite appropriate, making the presence of music much more impactful in its key places). Realistic writing from people who lived the experience first hand. As I said, I can go on for awhile but I'll sum it up and end this review with one statement: Das Boot is the definitive submarine movie.
"Das Boot" is a classic. This film couldn't be more intense and emotionally draining. It is a work of genius. Jurgen Prochnaw gives a spectacular performance as the German U-Boat Captain. The acting is first rate as the cast of characters is as realistic and believable as it gets. Don't watch this film unless you are absolutely prepared to immerse yourself into the drama of life as a crewman aboard a German submarine during war. This is a very rare portrayal of battle through the eyes of our enemy and will actually have you cheering for the "bad guys" at times. This is a one of a kind movie that must be seen to be believed. Words in a review cannot describe the experience of "Das Boot." A tremendous film! A 12 on a scale of 10!
While it has been a very long time since I have seen this movie, it is
one of the very few that I own. Wolfgang Petersen's magnificent
accomplishment in "Das Boot" is reiterating the dictum that "war is
hell", no matter which side you look at it from and no matter where the
battlefield is located.
*** Minor spoilers ***
The plot has been well described by other viewers so I won't rehash it again. But my personal observations, as an ex-submarine sailor, are that Petersen probably portrayed life on board the sub pretty accurately. I say "probably" because todays subs are hotels compared with the German U-boats and American submarines. The commonality between yesterday and today is how the crew deals with being closed up in a "sewer pipe" for weeks at a time. More importantly, you as a viewer become an invisible crew member as the crew lives in very cramped conditions (American WW2 subs used to be called "pig boats"), deals with an unfortunately believable political officer, deals with drills, actual torpedo firings, actual ships casualties, and deals, most frighteningly, with retribution from the "enemy". My own experience watching the depth charging of the U-boat was such that I was thinking "stop it, Stop It, STOP IT, STOPITSTOPITSTOPIT...!!!!!" That's how real it felt to me. For the rest of you, I feel certain you will too be dragged in and know what it is like to live on board a WW2 U-boat.
This movie also shows how leadership is so important in keeping the crew (and ultimately the sub) together. Petersen's direction for Captain Lehmann-Willenbrock was masterful because it didn't portray the captain as a god. It showed him as a man who knows how to lead, knows his submarine as if he were married to it (and in many ways he is) but isn't perfect at the job. It also shows that even with great leadership qualities, Captain Lehmann-Willenbrock can not do the job alone: he must have both officers and enlisted men who have the knowledge and skill to not just do their jobs, but to also advise the captain. Petersen also managed to give each member of the crew their own separate personalities instead of the predictable cookie-cutter personalities that Hollywood feels is needed.
I could go on and on. So I will close by saying that with the plot, direction, cinematography, acting, sound, music, editing all being top notch, this is one of the few movies that I can truly rate a 10 out of 10. I also preferred the German version with subtitles.
I believe that this movie was either the first or one of the first to use Steadicam technology. It was truly amazing for me to see a camera zip its way through a submarine, specifically through the open watertight doors, without a break in the filming. Up until I heard what Steadicam was, I was always wondering how Petersen managed to hide the camera dolly track or the wires the camera hung from.
(It turns out I was wrong: "Bound For Glory" was the first.)
EDIT (12 OCT, 2006): I have been corrected by an observant viewer. Wikipedia has the following comment on what I thought was Steadicam usage:
"Most of the interior shots were filmed using a hand-held Arriflex of cinematographer Jost Vacano's design to convey the claustrophobic atmosphere of the boat. It had a gyroscope to provide stability, a reinvention of the Steadicam on a smaller scale, so that it could be carried throughout the interior of the mock-up. Vacano wore full-body padding to minimize injury as he ran and the mock-up was rocked and shaken."
So, literally, a Steadicam was NOT used in the filming of "Das Boot". However, a camera that resembled Steadicam in function (in the way it gyroscopically leveled the filming platform) was used.
Even though todays submarines are far cleaner then their predecessors, and we have refrigerators, freezers, air conditioning, are able to take showers, etc., there is one aspect of living in an enclosed space that still lives on: the smell. While the smell of the "pig boats" of WW2 was truly atrocious, even with todays ability to clean the atmosphere, you can not escape the fact that any smell that is created, from burned toast in the galley, from the smell of the "sanitary gasses" (to be kind), to gasified hydraulic oil and diesel fuel, all these particulates will eventually become absorbed in your clothing. You, as a sailor, may get used to it, but when you get home, your wife will most likely declare that you smell like a submarine and demand that whatever you are wearing get thrown in the wash ... immediately!
The first time I saw this film I could not take my eyes from it. I was mesmerized with the transition of a hearty young crew leaving port evolving as the sheer moments of terror (deep under water battles and personal struggles as well as the final scene) lead them all to rethink their actual cause, and their very own mortality (as well as our own in the perils of war!). I can't imagine another film actually displaying what it must have been like to be on one of Nazi Germany's U-boats - young nationalist boys being plucked from their mother's bosom and cast into the claustrophobic iron wolfs in the heat and height of the second world war, who begin to doubt the cause and victory of the fuhrer they've been taught to love and trust. Very colorful, contrasting characters and a script and plot thick with surprises and emotional drama/trauma. Top-notch direction, action, acting and sets. This is perhaps the greatest movie ever made in my opinion. Sorry I couldn't be more specific with the review, there is just too much to cover without spoiling anything for those yet to enjoy it, and thus I just highly recommend it to anybody, not just war movie buffs. I have seen both the regular version and the director's cut (which I own on DVD now) and I must say that the DC is superior. A masterpiece!
Das Boot is one of the most emotionally involving movies I have ever seen. The characters are developed richly, without those awkward moments in movies when you realize that the director is doing so. You sympathize with the crew, and FEEL their plight as they struggle, cramped in a rickety U-boat against the odds. At times the movie grows slow and drawn out, but that is intentional- to make you feel like you are trapped in an underwater coffin with nothing to do, no where to go. The directing is great, the sound is fabulous! I've never heard faint noises tell a story like this before.
When you go to a liquor store to buy Vodka you can purchase one of several brands or you can purchase Stoli. That's what Das Boot is when it comes to Submarine films. You can watch any one of several or you can watch Das Boot. Like Stoli Vodka it's in a class by itself. Superb film either way you see it i.e. subtitles or the dubbed version. See the directors cut if you can. The German crew could be any nationality the film is so well done it doesn't matter. Andy Rooney once said that when you're in a war you live life at 100%. The opening scene of this film demonstrates that. The men are living life at 100%. I never saw any other war movie that captured that like Das Boot.
War movies have been biases to one side or the other. This movie does not make hero's or enemies of the German U-boat sailors. Instead, it grips the viewer with realistic depictions of what it was like to be a U-boat sailor for the Gemans in WWII. It starts off with young (17 year old to 25 year old) who have been filled with propaganda about the war effort and glorious battle. After this young crew of immature sailors start to experience the true horrors of war, you can not only see, but experience with them the boredom, laughter, camaraderie, team work and death. In a world where you have no windows, where your ears have to be your eyes, where a cat and mouse game is played and the looser dies, these young men age 10 to 15 years It makes the viewer realize the horror of submarine warfare in WWII. The most realistic war movie I have ever seen.
Using the term 'authenticity' in connection with any kind of art is rather
difficult and daring as well. Sometimes it looks posed or is by certain
purposes manipulated. Referring to Petersen´s "Das Boot" however, I consider
it justified to call it authentic and true. I think this statement can be
strengthened mainly by the fact that Lothar Gunther Buchheim was consulted.
He composed the novel this breathtaking movie bases on and he himself was
employed as a war correspondent in the Second World War.
The entire plot has no weak points. Starting at "Bar Royal" at the very night before the forces living journey of the submarine crew begins, the director fittingly manages to confront the audience with the protagonists and their way of dealing with the pounding uncertainty. Once put to sea, the character of the scenes changes abruptly. Every member of the crew and the audience as well comes into very close contact with the tightness of the action space. At this point it is necessary to underline the excellent work of the cameramen. The fast and partial hectic cuts draw an exact picture of the drama on board. Too do not forget the outstanding lighting. However besides this abundance of obvious suspense, there are also a number of moments going into in-depth psychology and thoughtfulness. To outline only a few of them: At "Bar Royal", when the chief engineer reflects about the uncertain fate of his family, or when the captain, with a kind of 'Weltschmerz' in his eyes, is astound and proud of the unbelievable efforts of the crew. It would probably be too laborious to refer to the decisive symbols the director uses, therefore I recommend this movie to everybody, especially those who are interested in the Second World War.
It presumably sounds pretty weird, yet I suppose that mankind gladly participates on the misfortune of others, without being closely involved with it. This closing notion may account for the huge success of this movie.>
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