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Das Boot Movie Review

experiences petersen sub film

1981 – Wolfgang Petersen –

The ultimate claustrophobic epic, Das Boot recounts the experiences of a German submarine crew during World War II. It is based on a book by Lothar-Gunther Buchheim, a journalist who wrote about his experiences on a real U-Boat and who serves as the prototype for the character Werner (Herbert Gronemeyer) in the film. Director Wolfgang Petersen wrote two screenplays when he was given the assignment to adapt Buchheim's book into a movie, one for a theatrical release and another for a mini-series that eventually aired on German television. We see the crew members at a nightclub before they ship out and meet their taciturn captain (Juergen Prochnow), who clearly has been aged by his previous experiences at war and who at thirty has already earned the nickname, “the old man.” The film shows how the young, unshaven crew also ages over the course of their experiences, and the overall development alternates between crises at sea and personalizing snapshots of the seamen, mostly viewed through the eyes of Werner.

Das Boot was the most expensive German film ever produced, and much of the meticulous and costly preparation went to ensure its authenticity and realism. With blueprints from the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, Rolf Zehetbauer and his production design team actually built two full-scale submarines, one to use for exterior shots (such as those of the sub leaving its berth) and one rigged to a sound-stage harness for interior scenes. To simulate the shudders produced by depth charges, the harness twisted the sub at various angles while inside the boat the actors and Jost Vacano, the director of photography, tried to capture the scenes of fear and disorientation. Although the second sub was equipped with removable sides, all the interiors were shot inside the boat with a hand-held camera and a gyroscope mount. Consequently, Das Boot is one film in which its look—living and working in cramped and crowded spaces—in the moments of lull between action scenes genuinely contributes to the character development. The personal moments of one sailor showing the photo of his girlfriend as well as the need to blast music through the sub and sing seem perfectly natural for men coping with war in such circumstances.

Cast: Juergen Prochnow (Captain), Herbert Gronemeyer (Correspondent Werner), Klaus Wennemann (Chief Engineer), Hubertus Bengsch (1st Lieutenant), Martin Semmelrogge (2nd Lieutenant), Bernd Tauber (Chief Quartermaster), Erwin Leder (Johann), Martin May (Ullman), Heinz Hoenig (Hinrich), Uwe Ochsenknecht (Chief Bosun), Claude-Oliver Rudolph (Ario), Jan Fedder (Pilgrim), Ralph Richter (Frenssen), Joachim Bernhard (Preacher), Oliver Stritzel (Schwalle) Screenwriter: Wolfgang Petersen, Dean Riesner Cinematographer: Jost Vacano Composer: Klaus Doldinger Producer: Gunter Rohrbach for Columbia MPAA Rating: R Running Time: 210 minutes Format: VHS, LV, DVD Awards: Academy Awards, 1982: Nominations: Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Director (Wolfgang Petersen), Editing, Sound Budget: $15M.

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