Saturday, January 15, 2011

Das Boot (Wolfgang Petersen)

Submerged claustrophobia.

Film Review Archive (date seen: September 18, 2010)

Claustrophobic and tense, "Das Boot" is an epic human study of survival set in the less-explored battlefields of the great second world war: the vast nothingness of the oceans. We know the stories of war zones: Stalingrad, Iwo Jima, Normandy. All has been said about those places: heroism, tragedy, casualties, you name it. But then there lies, beneath the watery abyss, the untold lives and existence of U-boat crews. The tension, anticipation, disappointments and camaraderie. Who would have surmised that a film out of these would be conceived? And even more so, the Germans, the much-dreaded stereotypical villains of the war genre, as chief protagonists? Director Wolfgang Petersen broke the boundaries of the genre and presented the said race not as ideological, ethnocentric monsters, but as vulnerable individuals that still cower on the face of imminent danger.

Jurgen Prochnow is unforgettable as the U-boat's captain, having the required experience and strength of character for such position, but still mentally encapsulated by endless insecurities and anxiety about the military hardware and capabilities of the Nazi regime. There were sequences of supreme technicalities always obligatory on the war genre but ultimately surpassing it and boasts not of the loud explosions and hard clashing of metals, but its brilliant foreshadowing of tension, its perfectly-balanced criss-cross between the narrow, sweaty confines of the U-boats' interior and the turbulent expanse of the perilous waters. Some complain about its long running time, but I think its the right approach to the film to thoroughly maintain the distress throughout the film, bombard audiences' senses with relentless suspense and create a credible bond and affection between the characters.

Adolf Hitler is on his podium, reciting reasons of the Aryan race's supremacy and yelling preposterous ideologies. But deep down the unforgiving bowels of the seas, lies the men to whom the world he promised; disillusioned, desperate, and hungry for home, they don't care about global conquest, they just need the 'silent run' and the 'surface'.


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