Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Tin Drum

German history is a carnival freak show in The Tin Drum, and the geek is as disgusted by the audience as they are by him. I speak, of course, of Oskar, the chief exhibit in this cabinet of horrors and the narrator who will guide the viewer through the rise of the Third Reich and the invasion of Poland. Repulsed by the adult world, he refuses to grow up, preferring to hide from cruel reality in the safe shell of a perpetually prepubescent body. With his wide eyes and angry mouth, David Bennent plays Oskar as a wrathful innocent, equally uncomprehending and unforgiving of the madness around him. This disconcerting performance is only occasionally matched by the film itself, which batters viewers with indiscriminately applied shock effects (grotesque images, filtered lenses, speeded movements) in one of those strained outbursts of Art that occasionally afflict otherwise healthy people. Director Volker Schlondorff’s feeble magical realism is as disconnected from the film as Oskar is from history. Key sequences—the doomed relationship between Oskar and the dwarf somnambulist Roswitha, for example—are dispatched with a hurried clumsiness that belies their significance. Adapted from the first two-thirds of the Gunter Grass novel, the film is both too long and not long enough, crammed with incident yet disjointed and incomplete. Schlondorff reportedly added 20 minutes to the film for its recent re-release; he might as well have added another hour for all the good it does him.

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