Das Boot (1981)
March 24, 2016 2:03 PM - Subscribe

The claustrophobic world of a WWII German U-boat; boredom, filth, and sheer terror.

NYTimes: ''DAS BOOT'' isn't just a German film about World War II; it's a German naval adventure epic that has already been a hit in West Germany. Its attitude toward war is distinctly critical, which must account for some share of the film's popularity. But so do the quiet compassion and precise detail with which its story has been told.

AV Club: But what really made the original cut of Das Boot work—and what’s improved in the director’s cut—is the development of the characters, who range from craggy captain Jürgen Prochnow to an assortment of Nazi ideologues and career sailors. The reason audiences have found it so easy to relate to the Germans in Das Boot over the years is that the movie is so open about the realities of war: how it draws in both people committed to a cause and people just doing a job. And it helps that Petersen makes U-96 itself into a character, detailing how its narrow corridor and creaky valves create an environment where dissension gives way to cooperation—or death. After all, only one person at a time can maneuver through the center of the boat, so everyone has to agree about who has the right of way. The larger issues fall away as men in a cramped metal cylinder busy themselves with getting through the next minute.

Roger Ebert: "Das Boot'' is not about claustrophobia, however, because the crew members have come to terms with that. It is about the desperate, dangerous and exacting job of manning a submarine. In a way we can focus on that better because it is a German submarine. If it were an American sub, we would assume the film ends in victory, identify with the crew, and cheer them on. By making it a German boat, the filmmakers neatly remove the patriotic element and increase the suspense. We identify not with the mission, but with the job.

cinephilefix: Wolfgang Peterson doesn’t go into any politics or waste time with the horrors of Nazi ideologies. We’ve been bombarded with films taking this angle several times and had he used the available material to portray a bunch of villains taking orders from an evil leader we wouldn’t be discussing the film thirty years later. He was wise in taking the risk to avoid such an approach and even wiser for not resorting to Nazi propaganda for “Das Boot” is simply a detailed account of single patrol mission and nothing more. The viewer has no choice and there’s no room for judgments as Peterson effectively places us amongst the cramped hulls so that the viewer is more of a crewmember than an outside observer.

'Das Boot' remake planned


It's a Long Way to Tipperary
posted by MoonOrb (10 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
This is such a great movie. I have the DVD -- it's been fifteen years since I've watched this and my memory's hazy, but recall a good commentary track and a lot of information on the set and filming. Didn't they just build an accurate version of the interior and find ways to film inside it?
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:21 PM on March 24, 2016

Such a good movie. The theatrical release was really good to start with, and I remember seeing it in the theater for the 1997 re-release and the reworked audio and the sound design, good lord - it was like the theater was dripping and I could almost hear rivets whizzing by overhead. So well done.

I worked with a guy who had been on subs with the US Navy and had some dub of the 3x100min episode version on Betamax.
posted by rmd1023 at 2:39 PM on March 24, 2016

My parents took me to see this in the theater when it came out. I was too young for it, but I loved it and I can still vividly remember scenes from seeing it that first time.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:21 PM on March 24, 2016

What are people's opinions of the various versions? IMDB says
149 min | 209 min (director's cut) | 138 min (VHS) | 239 min (special uncut DVD) | 293 min (Original Uncut Version)
From the timings, Amazon streaming and iTunes seem to have the "director's cut".

I can't remember which I saw (it was at least 200 minutes though) but it was incredible, and I've been meaning to watch it again someday. Should I try to find the longest possible version, or is this a case of "less is more"? I do believe it was originally a 5-hour miniseries and all the movie versions are trimmed from that, so it shouldn't be like the longer versions are just padded with rightfully-deleted scenes.
posted by dfan at 5:13 AM on March 25, 2016

I think Das Boot is one of the greatest anti-war films ever made. As a young teen I watched this with my dad late one night when it was just us in the house and it really did a number on me, especially the ending. Nothing else I had seen ever conveyed how arbitrary and pointless war is. Just the incredible herculean human effort expended on the part of the crew, ultimately for nothing. Even that young I was intellectually aware that doing your best had relatively little impact on survival but it's hard to shake the Hollywood plot conditioning. I have heard that the author of the novel complained that the film glorified war too much. If he thought the film was glorification I'm scared to know how bleak the book must be.

Approx. 70% of Germany's U-boat crews were killed during WWII.
posted by Wretch729 at 7:18 AM on March 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

On a lighter note, and maybe this is exaggerated by time and retelling, but I remember chuckling every time a character would unleash a long stream of invective in German and the English captions would read something like "This darn weather!"
posted by Wretch729 at 7:36 AM on March 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

Great movie. You have to wonder how many times they had to do some of those scenes where gallons of water rush in from the tower hatch. Must have been a big deal to reset each time. One of the great film sets of all time.
I have to say I enjoy the music too, even though it is very 80s synth.
posted by starman at 1:44 PM on March 25, 2016

I saw half of it on TV when it was shown as a mini-series, back in the late 1980s. The U-Boat got stuck at the bottom of the sea and for some reason I wasn't able to see the rest of the story, so for the last 30 years I had been avoiding spoilers and wondering what happened to the crew. I only finished the movie a few months ago. Solid movie, with impressive practical, real-looking sets that would be 80% CGI today. By the way, there's a 103-year old U-Boat captain who is still alive, playing golf and driving cars.
posted by elgilito at 4:37 AM on March 26, 2016 [3 favorites]

I just came in here to talk about the sound design. It is a masterpiece.

I am a fan of any closed-environment movie (spaceships, submarines), and this one is one of the best. So claustrophobic and despairing.
posted by biscotti at 5:22 AM on March 28, 2016

I found it hard to watch Star Trek after this. Since Das Boot, every time the life support fails on the Enterprise I notice the desperation and panic that isn't there. Likewise the lack of overflowing, exuberant joy at survival.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 6:03 AM on March 31, 2016 [2 favorites]

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