Director: Wolfgang Petersen
Writers: Wolfgang Petersen, Lothar G. Buccheim (Novel)
Stars: Jurgen Prochnow, Herbert Gronemeyer, Klaus Wennemann
The tension, THE TENSION! Das Boot is a movie that had me on the edge of my seat the whole way through. We see the claustrophobic, disturbing life of the men who lived and fought in Submarines in WWII through the eyes of the German side.
They are led by Captain Henrich played by Jurgen Prochnow. He is a quiet, strong and capable leader that has seen many battles. There is no attempt made to convince the viewer to like or dislike him. That's refreshing; usually films try to introduce the main character as some hero with good qualities. Yes, this man has good qualities, but we don’t really get to know who he is as a person. Lieutenant Werner (Gronemeyer), the Captain’s right hand man, however is likeable. He cares about the crew and even more so for surviving through the war, whatever it takes. The chief engineer, Fritz Grade (Wennemann), is the most selfless and courageous of all the men.
What makes this film so unbelievable is that it is essentially an anti-war film, however that was not the purpose of the film. It showed that German soldiers were only following orders because they had to in order to get home. It is masterful the way each crew member is shown as a human being with their own fears, own problems, own story; and yet they are all thrown together trying to help each other survive.
The cinematography of the ocean and the sunsets were beautifully captured, as well as storms and rough seas. Seeing submerging submarines and exploding firebombs underwater is remarkable considering the film was made in 1981. I was dumbfounded at the technology used to make it feel so real. In order to see the inside of the submarine, the camera pans through the quarters moving steadily through halls and around crew members which helped create a claustrophobic, rushed atmosphere for the viewer.
There are many things to admire about this movie. Personally, I loved the honesty that was displayed. When the Germans blew up a British submarine they were given the option to save them, but instead they let them burn. As disturbing as this was, I appreciated that it followed historical accuracy over what the typical Hollywood action flick would have. Like I said, there was no true message that this movie intended to give to the viewer, we just take what we see. It reminded me a bit of All Quiet On The Western Front (1930), as the message I took from it was that war is not worth getting into to save your country. Das Boot will surely go down as one of the best war films ever made.