"The Boat" is the story of the crew of one of the hundreds of U-boats deployed by the Germans in World War II. Subject to countless hours of claustrophobic confinement and unending assault by enemy ships, the crew struggles for survival. Written by
Carl Miller <firstname.lastname@example.org>
When a film about World War II has American audiences routing for the Germans, hoping and cheering them on for the success of their mission, one can only become conscious of the ultimate horror and futility of war. One also has watched a helluva movie.
Back in the early 80's I called in sick (along with some friends) to see the opening of Petersen's Das Boot. We were all stunned. Went out for a beer and then returned to the theatre and watched it all over again.
Petersen masterfully developed his cast into a crew who are no longer "the enemy" but fresh faced kids, neither prepared nor aware of the horror that was waiting them. When I first saw "Das Boot" I was the same age as those kids so it resonated more powerfully than I could have possibly imagined. In this wonderful uncut release of the original German miniseries we're forced to spend even more time with the crew of U-96 and in that time get to knew them better. We see friendships and bonds formed, the irritability that comes with lack of privacy and tension so dense it becomes an almost physical presence. We also get more of the sense of what war really is immense spans of boredom and ennui interrupted by the occasional horrors of violence and death.
Petersen kept his cast indoors and unshaven during the entire shoot with the resulting effect that the crew actually looks like a group of men who have not seen natural light, or breathed fresh air for 65 days. Additionally, the actors were all put through vigorous physical training so that when racing through the set of a dangerously reconstructed U-Boat, they move naturally with an almost balletic swiftness that is dazzling.
This is masterful film-making of the highest order, with sound and lighting that capture the claustrophobic nature of a submarine, almost suffocating the viewer. The scenes of Das Boot racing through the Atlantic, it's difficult near fatal destruction in the narrow Strait of Gibraltar will have your blood pumping at fever pitch.
The ensemble cast is uniformly excellent, each actor - even ones with little to no dialogue, making bold indelible choices in developing their characters.
Jürgen Prochnow as the Captain gives a remarkable, strong performance, making one believe - from the very beginning - this is a true leader of men.
You have no difficulty believing this crew standing behind this captain's every decision.
Petersen's writing of Herbert Grönemeyer as the eager young reporter, Werner is a masterful creation. Werner becomes the multi-faceted prism through whom we watch and live this story. Part Greek chorus, part conscience of the uninvolved, we join him as an outsider on the inside, becoming participants in this heart rending drama. Grönemeyer's performance becomes the very soul of Das Boot.
"Das Boot" remains one of my all time favorite films and to finally be able to own and see it as Wolfgang Petersen intended is one of the best things to happen since the invention of DVD.
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