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The Tin Drum(1979)
In the East Prussia of Danzig before the war, three-year-old Oskar Matzerath decides to stop growing--and succeeds--then finds playing his favorite toy, a tin drum, useful for tuning out things that annoy him, like his mother's dallying with their Polish boarder, the Nazi rallies his father attends, or even the advent of war itself.
For more about The Tin Drum and the The Tin Drum Blu-ray release, see the The Tin Drum Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on December 19, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Director: Volker Schlöndorff
Writers: Jean-Claude Carrière, Volker Schlöndorff, Franz Seitz, Günter Grass
Starring: Mario Adorf, Angela Winkler (I), David Bennent, Katharina Thalbach, Daniel Olbrychski, Tina Engel
» See full cast & crew
The Tin Drum Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, December 19, 2012
Winner of the prestigious Palme d'Or Award at the Cannes Film Festival, Volker Schlondorff's "Die Blechtrommel" a.k.a "The Tin Drum" (1979) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on this release include original trailer for the film; new video interview with director Volker Schlondorff; video interview with film scholar Timothy Corrigan; extracts from archival interviews with Mario Adorf and co-screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriere, and David Bennent and director Vokler Schlondorff; a scene from "The Tin Drum" accompanied by an audio recording of author Gunter Grass; and more. The release also arrives with an illustrated booklet featuring an essay by critic Michael Atkinson and statements by Gunter Grass about the adaptation of his novel. In German, with optional English subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
Volker Schlondorff's The Tin Drum tells the story of a young boy, Oskar (David Bennent, Legend), who lives in a world in which adults are constantly at odds with each other. Incredibly annoyed by their games and hypocritical behavior, on his third birthday Oskar decides to stop growing. He accomplishes his goal after he throws himself down the cellar stairs in his home. Then he becomes obsessed with a tiny tin drum and discovers that his screams can shatter glass.
Oskar's home town is Danzig, a place where Germans and Poles can't stand each other. The atmosphere in the city is so incredibly tense that everyone realizes that it is only a matter of time before something terrible happens.
There is plenty of tension in Oskar's family as well. Oscar's mother Agnes (Angela Winkler, The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum) is in love with two men - the German Alfred Matzerath (Mario Adorf, Caliber 9) and the Pole Jan Bronski (Daniel Olbrychski, The Unbearable Lightness of Being). She is married to the former, but the latter is Oscar's biological father. Oskar meets the two men all the time but does not care much about them because he has seen enough to realize that they are like the rest of the adults - liars and hypocrites.
Soon after Oskar discovers that his screams can shatter glass he starts patrolling the streets of Danzig. When he sees something he does not like, he makes sure that everyone is aware. He also learns to manipulate the adults, as most of them incorrectly assume that he is too young to understand the way they think.
Oskar also befriends Bebra (Fritz Hakl), a dwarf in a traveling circus, who warns him about the great evil that is about to be unleashed. At first Bebra's warning confuses Oskar, but when the Nazis enter Danzig he begins to understand what his friend was trying to tell him.
After the Nazis turn Danzig upside down, the Soviets arrive to liberate it. Then, while liberating it a few of them rape Oskar's grandmother in the basement of their home.
Based on the acclaimed novel by Gunter Grass, The Tin Drum reminds about Federico Fellini's best films – it is provocative, unapologetic, sad, funny, and grotesque. It is also filled with plenty of symbolism, similar to that other period war films have favored (see Andrzej Wajda's Ashes and Diamonds).
In America, The Tin Drum received plenty of mixed reviews. This wasn't surprising, because the people who wrote them could not possibly understand its message. The film isn't about Oskar's rejection of the world he is forced to endure or the horrors of war, it is about an entire nation slowly losing its identity and its people becoming puppets. (The Tin Drum was completed in 1979, at a time when the citizens of GDR and FDR were still very much treated like puppets).
Because the transformation is not sudden, the adults are not alarmed by it. Only Oskar, who has isolated himself, senses the dangerous transformation. But he also does not fully understand what is happening - his 'normal' mother is constantly in bed with different men, the 'normal' girl he has fallen in love with now has an older lover, his 'normal' friend Bebra who warned him about the Nazis turns up in a Nazi uniform. Confused and filled with anger, Oskar bangs his tin drum and screams – and then slowly, like everyone else around him, also begins to change.
Note: In 1979, The Tin Drum won the prestigious Palme d'Or Award at the Cannes Film Festival. A year later, the film won Oscar Award for Best Foreign Language Film (West Germany).
The Tin Drum Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Volker Schlöndorff's The Tin Drum arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray:
"Director Volker Schlöndorff's final cut of The Tin Drum originally ran 163 minutes, which was longer than his contract permitted; in the end, the studio and the filmmaker agreed on a 142-minute runtime for the theatrical release. Wishing, however, to finally restore the film to its original form, in 2010 Schlöndorff assembled and added the missing scenes based on his editing notes and shooting script. It is this complete version that is presented here. The editor for the additional picture and sound material was Peter Adam, and the restoration was made possible by Argos Films, a coproducer of the film. The completed restoration was approved by Schlöndorff.
The new high-definition digital transfer was created on a Spirit Datacine at Scanlab, in France, from a 35mm interpositive struck from the original camera negative; color grading was done on a Specter. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, and warps were manually removed using MTI's DRS and Pixel Farm's PFClean.
Colorist: Natacha Louis/Scanlab, Issy-les-Moulineaux, France.
Blu-ray mastering: Radius60, Los Angeles."
The basics of the high-definition transfer for the complete version of The Tin Drum, which was approved by Volker Schlöndorff, are very similar to those of the high-definition transfer Arrow Video used for their Blu-ray release of the film in the United Kingdom - but they are not identical. Aside from the negligible framing difference, the Criterion high-definition transfer is slightly brighter. The difference truly is very small, but there are portions of the film where one could notice the elevated brightness levels (compare screencapture #7 with screencapture #2 from our review of the Arrow Video release). Elsewhere, however, brightness and color saturation are virtually the same (compare screencapture #4 with screencapture #10). Detail and image depth are identical. In terms of contrast stability, there are no fluctuations to report in this review either. Compression is marginally better here, but the slightly elevated brightness levels also enhance some of the extremely light noise that occasionally pops up during select sequences. There are no traces of excessive sharpening or degraning. Also, there are no large debris, cuts, damage marks, or warps. All in all, I think that this is very likely to be the definitive presentation of The Tin Drum as obviously various distributors around the world have access to the same master of the film's complete version. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
The Tin Drum Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: German DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English subtitles for the main feature.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"The Tin Drum was originally released with a monaural soundtrack. A 5.1 surround soundtrack was later created from a six-track magnetic element made at Studio Boulogne, in France, for the 1979 70mm blowup screenings of the film. The sound for the additional material in the complete version was created from the original music and effects track, a 1979 stereo music mix, and new ADR recorded at Studio Babelsberg, in Germany, under the supervision of Volker Schlondorff."
The newly remastered and approved by director Volker Schlondorff lossless surround track opens up the film as best as possible. Depth and fidelity are very good, but the range of nuanced dynamics is rather limited. This is not to say that additional substantial improvements could have been made; the film's sound design is simply too modest (this becomes fairly obvious during the rainstorm early into the film). The dialog is crisp, clean, stable, and easy to follow. There are no distortions or audio dropouts to report in this review.
The Tin Drum Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Tin Drum Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I think that anyone interested in Volker Schlondorff's The Tin Drum should consider owning this new Blu-ray release from Criterion as well as Arrow Video's release. There are some minor discrepancies in the technical presentations, but as far as supplemental features are concerned both have some that I think are very important. Criterion's new video interview with Volker Schlondorff, for example, is fantastic, easily a good enough reason to recommend owning this release. But on the Arrow Video release there is also a very good audio commentary with the German director for the theatrical version of The Tin Drum. With the two releases you could create your Ultimate Edition of this acclaimed European film. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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