The Tin Drum (1979) - Plot Summary Poster



Showing all 5 items
Jump to:


  • 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.

  • 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...

  • In Danzig, the young Agnes has a triangle of love with her Polish cousin Jan Bronski and the dealer Alfred Matzerath. She marries Alfred, but has a son, Oskar, with Bronski. On the day of his third birthday, Oskar decides to stop growing up. Along the next years, the family lives the life after World War I and before and during World War II and the rise and fall of the Nazi Party.

  • Oskar Matzerath, from mixed German/Polish (Kashubian) heritage, is born in Danzig during the post WWI period with a well formed mentality and knowledge of life, including his family's history, such as the strange way his maternal grandparents met which resulted in the birth of his mother Agnes Bronski, and while loving her husband, baker Alfred Matzerath, Agnes' continuing affair with her cousin, Jan Bronski, a Pole who works at a Polish run post office. With this knowledge, knowing that he will receive a tin drum as a gift on his third birthday, and watching the way adults around him continue to act, Oskar makes a conscious decision that on his third birthday, after he receives his tin drum, that he will stop growing, making it look like an accident has stunted his growth. His tin drums - the original as well as subsequent replacements - will act as symbols of his eternal youth. At a young age, he also learns of another special gift he has which aids in him getting what he wants by causing disruptions around him. Oskar will learn more fully of the consequences of his decision when chronologically he becomes a teenager, which coincides with the Nazi uprising and persecution of Poles and Jews.



The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • This movie was set in Danzig, Germany before, during and at the end of WWII. The main character is Oskar Matzerath(David Bennent). His mother Agnes Matzerath(Angela Winkler) has two love interests, her Polish cousin, Jan Bronski(Daniel Olbrychski) and a German Alfred Matzerath(Mario Adorf). She ends up marrying Alfred Matzerath but continues to have an affair with Jan Bronski. She becomes pregnant with Oskar, so it isn't for sure that Matzerath is really his father. On Oskar's third birthday he is given a tin drum. After observing the adult world he decides that he does not want to be part of it. He throws himself down the cellar stairs to halt his growth. He is successful and no longer grows. He becomes very attached to his drum and whenever someone tries to take away his drum he is able to scream in such a high pitched scream that he shatters glass around him. The Nazi invasion of their Polish town begins. Oscar's mother Agnes ends up killing herself by eating large amount of raw fish. Jan Bronski continues to work at the Polish Post office and ends up being killed by the Nazis. This was considered the first day of the war. Oskar's peasant cousin, Maria(Katharina Thalbach) comes to live with Oskar and her Father. She becomes Oskar's step mother and love interest. Oskar and Maria have sex and she becomes pregnant. Although one can't be sure whos son he is, Oskar believes it is his son. Maria's son Kurt is born. . During the war Oskar joins a troupe of traveling dwarfs who perform to escape the war. He ends up meeting his second love, which ends tragically before the end of the war. Oskar returns home for his fathers funeral. At the funeral his son Kurt hits his head with a rock. Instantly Oskar begins to grow.

See also

Taglines | Synopsis | Plot Keywords | Parents Guide

Contribute to This Page

Recently Viewed