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(1979) In the East Prussia of Danzig before the war, three-year-old Oskar Matzerath decides to stop growing — and succeeds — then finds playing his favorite toy, a tin drum, useful for tuning out things that annoy him, like his mother’s dallying with their Polish boarder, the Nazi rallies his father attends, or even the advent of war itself. This powerful symbol has been variously interpreted since Danzig native Günter Grass’s first novel made him world-famous, and it remains ambiguously multi-layered in Schlöndorff’s epic adaptation. (Grass had nixed filming for twenty years, but, after seeing the script by Schlöndorff and Buñuel collaborator Jean-Claude Carrière, not only gave his consent but worked on the dialogue himself.) Shot on the actual locations — now Polish Gdansk — its international cast includes Shoot the Piano Player’s Charles Aznavour as the Jewish shopkeeper and Andrezj Wajda regular Daniel Olbrychski as the boarder, with the pint-sized twelve-year-old David Bennent as Oskar (“an extraordinary character played by an extraordinary actor in a remarkable performance” - Vincent Canby, New York Times). The first German film ever to win the Best Foreign Film Oscar, this is “one of the best cinematic translations of a major novel ever made” (Newsweek). This new version includes about 25 minutes Schlöndorff was obliged to cut from his 1979 original, including scenes with Matzerath, the conscience-ridden Nazi sympathizer; with Treblinka survivor Fajngold; and a possibly imaginary orgy at the court of St. Petersburg.

For another side of Carrière, see his collaborations with Pierre Étaix, Oct. 19-30.


Volker Schlöndorff discusses the extended cut of The Tin Drum on WNYC's The Leonard Lopate Show (9/21/12)



"Has lost neither its ability to shock and disturb nor its biting, absurdist sense of humor."
– New York magazine

****! [FOUR STARS]!
[4 Stars]
"Schlöndorff's, and Grass's, great feat is having Oskar emerge as a creature all his own. He doesn't succumb to political euphoria, worshipping Hitler, but instead uses his musical gift to confound a youth orchestra at a Nazi fête so that an orderly lineup of military salutes is soon swaying and prancing to a new beat."

-- Ela Bittencourt, Slant Magazine

"Oskar may be small, but he is no Oliver Twist. Rather, he is Fagin, endlessly scheming to find loopholes which will allow him to remain as he is. While Oskar maintains a physical stasis, he does grow on the inside. This is visible to us mostly through Bennent’s superb performance as Oskar. At first it is school that Oskar rebels against, then his dysfunctional family unit, then finally the war itself."
– Daphne Malfitano, Cinespect

“A big, sweeping film that does its best to serve the torrential imagination of one of the most original, most gifted German writers of our day. The story is so outsized, bizarre, funny and eccentric with several stunning sequences that the movie compels attention.”
– Vincent Canby, The New York Times

“Schlöndorff crafted his adaptation as ‘a German fresco,’ a series of portraits of a city, a street, and a neighborhood in Danzig before and during World War II. At times cameraman Igor Luther’s images have a panoramic sweep, be they the open potato fields and train tracks that disappear into the distance which frame the film or the breathtakingly beautiful long shot of the doomed Polish city on the eve of the German invasion.”
– Eric Rentschler

“It is, first of all, a realistic film, deeply rooted in the Danzig lower middle-class, with its pettiness, its fears and, at times, with a certain grandeur. It is also a fantastic, barbarous film, in which shafts of black light suddenly pierce the suburban streets, the small shops, the monotony, and the daily round. This second, ever present dimension, explosive, haunting, rises as prosaic reality from the ground.”
– Screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière