I used to be one of those people who joined in on the mantra that all German television and movie productions were terrible. I used to think that with the exception of the rare gem, it was all Rosamunde Pilcher, Traumschiff and Tatort. I always bemoaned the fact that we have so many talented actors, directors and writers and so much crap came out of it and in the end the most celebrated German films are movies starring actors with the syllable "Schweig" in their last name. Ironic, because that is really what they should have done.
But then over the last few years there have been a few exceptions in my mind, which were not great, but interesting and most importantly: watchable. I would name Dark, Deutschland 83, 4Blocks, Babylon Berlin and even the recent Dogs of Berlin. So now I was reasonably excited to see a remake of Das Boot, which is what this was marketed as. In the end, in my book it's a mess and no more than four out of ten. I watched all of it, but am not sure if I should have. Anyone who rated this 10 out of 10 is an idiot or a Sky shill, but it's not a one or two out of ten piece of crap, either.
The period setting is really quite well done. They did excellent on using La Rochelle and recreating the base. All this is really solid.
The camera work is also very well done. The fact that the claustrophobia of the boat does not really come across is an editing problem, the camera-work is solid.
Some of the acting is really quite good. At times it is frustrating to see that some of the actors are given terrible lines to work with at other times, the acting is simply all over the place, this is true in particular for Vicky Krieps. Some scenes are wonderfully done, others downright terrible.
The storyline is a mess. It's absolutely clear that they started out not with a story that they needed to tell, but with eight hour-long episodes to fill with content. Why exactly did we need the Resistance plot? Was it really only to get two female leads? So much of it feels like people were just trying to fill the episode and there's never a sense of a drive towards a climax. If there is a climax, you never get a sense of what it might be, there is no build-up. Plot-arcs are commenced and ended throughout. Where are we going, nobody knows?
The characters all feel like people we've seen too many times before: The die-hard, stubborn rebel, the dashing American rogue, the noble bad guy, the conflicted collaborating French policeman.... Move along folks, nothing new to see here. None of this feels like original content and this has nothing to do with the fact that it's marketed as a remake.
The language decisions in this film are terrible. In true Rosamunde Pilcher style, the language is all German and we're simply supposed to imagine they're speaking French or English (and at times it really leaves you wondering whether this is a moment where you're supposed to be imagining they're speaking French or not). Didn't these guys learn anything from all the recent sub-titled shows. Go watch Narcos, dangit. Where's Hans Landa when you need him!
The character motivations feel out of place. What was the mutiny on the boat about. What was Tennstedt trying to accomplish? First, he's a rule-stickling, by-the-book Nazi, then he can't wait to disobey orders and head a mutiny for some glory he must realize he can never get by pursuing this course. It doesn't make sense. The same with Wrangel and the crew.
This show is a social justice warrior's dream. I don't have a problem with any plot point that comes up, if it fits the story and makes sense in the place it is given, but this??? In a show about a WWII sub you have two female leads, the main lead is Lesbian, the men are ALL rapists, the NAZIS are all fully-in-line, obedient fascists. A lot of it feels like it's simply ticking the boxes of political correctness.
And then there's the historical inaccuracies. As a German, I don't have a problem with calling a spade a spade, when it comes to the Third Reich, but when there is so much actual terrible historical material to work with, why would you have to make up stuff and exaggerate? A gang-rape and killing of a barmaid by soldiers would certainly not have gone down the way it did, even if the authorities did not know that this was the spouse and mother of the child of a fellow German soldier. Even if it were just to keep the townsfolk content, there would have been a harsh punishment. And then the reprisals: Yes, there were German reprisals against resistance activity and hostages were taken and shot, but these were people already imprisoned for suspected resistance activity or for being communists. This is quite bad enough, but in my mind a whole lot different from just randomly and knowingly selecting innocent townsfolk to be shot. There were massacres, like the Oradour-sur-Glane massacre, but this was after D-Day and the product of open hostility from the French populace and the panicked and desperate attempts of the occupying force to keep control. Again, a very different scenario. This feels like "Atonement" where they just threw in an orphanage that was entirely massacred, just for the heck of it, because that is what Nazis do.
Ultimately, this is a bad-to-mediocre show that has no sense of perspective or drive. It's just an attempt to cash in using a big name and ticking all the boxes. That's not a crime, but not a recipe for good entertainment, either.
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