• Tin Drum

    Released by: Umbrella Entertainment
    Released on: February 1st, 2017.
    Director: Volker Schlondorff
    Cast: Angela Winkler, Mario Adorf, David Bennent, Katharina Thalbach, Daniel Olbrychski
    Year: 1979

    The Movie:

    Set in the German town of Danzig before the Second World War, Volker Schlondorff’s 1979 picture The Tin Drums tells the story of a boy named Oskar Matzerath (David Bennent). In many ways, Oskar is a very smart kid, certainly of higher intelligence than most of his peers, and this intelligence allows him to see mistakes made by those older than him. When Oskar turns three, he decides that he isn’t going to grow anymore. That’s it. He doesn’t want to become an adult, not when he sees what happens to them.

    Oskar also receives a tin drum as a birthday gift from his mother Agnes (Angela Winkler). When he sees something that he doesn’t like or that he doesn’t agree with, Oskar pounds said drum, a child’s act of revolt in a sense. Should anyone try to take the drum from him, Oskar promptly shrieks like a banshee and throws a big enough tantrum that anyone foolish enough to make such an attempt promptly changes their mind. His shrieks literally have the ability to shatter glass. Meanwhile, there’s some tension in the story stemming from who Oskar’s real father is. Before Agnes married a chef named Alfred (Mario Adorf), she slept with Jan (Daniel Olbrychski), a postal worker and a man she still visits occasionally.

    Obviously Oskar does grow older, at least physically, but as he sees what’s happening to his country and to those around him too cowardly to stand up to the rise of fascism, his drumming and his screaming seems to grow louder.

    Based on the first part of a three part novel known as The Danzig Trilogy, The Tin Drum was penned by Günter Grass, himself a resident of Danzig, a town that resides near the Polish border. The Tin Drum is a fairly confrontational picture. The somewhat infamous scenes where Oskar, really a teenager at this point but still very much in the mindset of a three year old, explores his budding sexuality with a sixteen year old girl named Maria (Katharina Thalbach) still have the ability to make viewers uncomfortable. This would wind up getting the film banned in Oklahoma at one point, where it was ruled child pornography – a real life case well documented on the North American DVD release that came out through The Criterion Collection. The film was also banned in Ontario at one point for the same reason.). Additionally the picture addresses the horrors of war and the violence inherent in combat head on, pulling no punches and delivering a few genuinely disturbing scenes in this regard. Despite all of this, the film not only won the 1979 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film but also the Palme d’Or when it played Cannes that same year.

    Still, the film is remarkably well made. The visual style employed here occasionally harkens back to the silent era, using storytelling tactics that occasionally rely less on dialogue and more on facial expressions and simple visuals to relay its message. The score, from composer Maurice Jarre, helps emphasis the picture’s more emotionally involving qualities, covering the range from the joys of early childhood years to the onset of war and pretty much everything in between. The music in the film is excellent and very fitting. The cinematography is excellent, capturing not only the locations but the human players perfectly.

    As to the performances, it’s hard to find anything to complain about here. Those playing the adult roles are convincingly human and, as such, quite flawed. Really though, it’s David Bennent whose work here is truly unforgettable. Although he was eleven when he starred in this film he’s always completely believable, even when portraying Oskar in his younger years.

    Note that the version of the movie included on this disc is the original theatrical cut, it is not the longer director’s cut that was released in 2010 (and is detailed here).


    The Tin Drum looks quite nice on this DVD from Umbrella, framed properly at 1.66.1 anamorphic widescreen. The image boasts nice colors, good black levels and about as much detail as you could reasonably expect out of a standard definition offering. Skin tones look good, the image is clean and free of all but minor print damage and there’s a fair amount of depth and texture on display here.

    German language options are offered up in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and in the original 2.0 Mono with optional subtitles provided in English only. The 5.1 remix spreads out the effects and the score a bit but otherwise keeps things mostly upfront in the mix. The mono track sounds more true to form and foregoes the artificial channel separation. Both tracks sound clean and clear and are free of any audible hiss or distortion.

    Extras are limited to a trailer for the feature, trailers for a few other Umbrella Entertainment releases, menus and chapter selection.

    The Final Word:

    The Tin Drum is challenging stuff, a really well directed and amazingly well acted picture that remains a thought provoking and fascinating portrayal of a country very much in transition as seen through the eyes of someone who refuses to grow up and conform to the problems he sees around him. Umbrella’s DVD release is disappointingly barebones, but it does look and sounds quite good by SD standards.