[box cover]

The Tin Drum

Notorious and controversial, Volker Schlöndorff's masterpiece The Tin Drum (1979) tells the allegorical tale of Oskar (played by tiny, twelve-year-old David Bennent), a boy who rejects the hypocrisy of adulthood and decides at age three that he doesn't want to grow up. So he just … stops growing. Gunter Grass' novel reflects what he saw as the deliberate myopia of WWII Germany, the nation trying to pretend that the Nazi regime was all just a bad fever-dream, as Oskar narrates his life's journey, maturing yet never growing, from his birth in 1924 through adulthood during one of the most significant periods in Western history. Viewing the world through the perpetual eyes of a child, clutching his beloved toy drum, and occasionally emitting high-pitched shrieks of frustration that can shatter glass, Oskar watches the adult world march towards madness, while his mother (Angela Winkler) carries on an ill-concealed affair and his father (Mario Adorf) joins the Nazi party with pride. The film is heavily atmospheric and somewhat anecdotal, following Oskar as he falls for a much taller girl, disrupts a Nazi rally with his drumming, watches his mother become increasingly crazed because of her sexual liaisons (a scene with her eating whole, raw fish is especially disturbing), and hiding — literally, figuratively, sexually — beneath his grandmother's skirts. Oskar briefly seems to find his place in the world when he joins a troupe of performers who entertain the Nazis and meets a lovely Italian midget, but his return home is, ultimately, tragic. A bleak sort of German magic realism, The Tin Drum filters the war through a poetic period fantasy, a fable about the time rather than a literal portrait. With stunning cinematography and terrific supporting performances — notable are Otto Sander as a communist neighbor and Charles Aznavour as the sweet Jewish toy-shop owner who sells Oskar his drum — The Tin Drum is a bizarre and brilliant take on the darkest days of the 20th century.

*          *          *

The Criterion Collection presents The Tin Drum with an impressive attention to detail — the new digital anamorphic transfer (1.66:1) is extraordinarily crisp, clean, and gorgeous, with beautiful contrast and almost no dirt or noise. The remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 and 1.0 audio mixes are beautiful as well (in German with newly translated English subtitles), and Maurice Jarre's haunting score is available on an optional, isolated track. Disc One offers the film with an excellent optional commentary track by director Schlöndorff, who discusses not only the technical aspects of making the picture but also comments on the controversy that surrounded its release. Disc Two contains a wealth of special features, including five minutes worth of deleted scenes, a clips-and-sound-bites background featurette titled "Volker Schlöndorff Remembers The Tin Drum" (20 min.), and the fascinating "Banned in Oklahoma" (30 min.), which details the events surrounding the film's truly bizarre trial for obscenity in that state. Also on board is "News From the Front," a selection of French TV clips related to the film, "The Platform," an interactive feature that allows the viewer to contrast the filmed scene of Oskar's drumming disrupting the rally with audio of Grass reading that passage from his novel; a text-based feature offering the film's originally scripted ending, a stills gallery, and the theatrical trailer. Dual-DVD keep-case.
—Dawn Taylor

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