Plot – The claustrophobic world of a WWII German U-boat; boredom, filth and sheer terror – Das Boot.
Director – Wolfgang Petersen
Released – 1981
With its unimaginable levels of tension and creeping sense of foreboding, it’s easy to see why Das Boot is now considered one of the best and most impressive submarine movie ever made, while also being one of the most accurate.
But more impressive than the sense of realism that runs throughout is how it humanises the German side of the war, while also confronting what it is to be the aggressors in the conflict and what it was like being under command of the Nazi’s despite not agreeing with their principles. The captain (Prochnow) even going as so far openly mocking the propaganda being fed to his crew over the radio.
A war film with an anti-war theme is one that’s been used many times over the years, but usually seen from the side of the allies, rarely from the axis, but here you’re presented with a group of men, who just like the men they are fighting against have a job to do and they’re going to do it to the best of their abilities.
The film goes to great lengths to show how little interest the crew have in the war, they’re just looking to survive the battles and return to their loved ones. Highlights by one of the most heartbreaking sequences, in which the crew struggles with the fact they have to choose survival over saving the lives of sailors from a sinking British ship. A group they had more in common with than differences.
Peterson’s camera work in this movie is worth paying attention to because it highlights the claustrophobia these men must have felt. There isn’t much in the way of movement, but the angles feel fresh and surprisingly for a movie that depends on which addition you watch can last between 2 and 4 hours, never feels repetitive.
What’s less impressive is the lack of ordinary character development for a film of this length. Sure, the acting is superb, but I couldn’t help but feel they had the time to give each character a unique personality and motivations.
Overall, Das Boot remains one of the best war films seen from the side of the German forces, filled with the many subtle moments that make you realise was isn’t all guns and glory, mostly desperate men clinging to their lives while following orders, no matter what uniform they’re in.