Iconic Films: Das Boot 1981.


Okay, I have decided that I will be going in a new direction with some of my reviews in the future. If anyone that has read my blog over the last six months will know that I am trying to learn how to write correctly and also learn about science-fiction and its origins.  My thinking is that maybe in a few years, I can take everything I have learnt and start to create some interesting stories and universes myself. This is always something I wanted to try and I don’t want to be that person who always says “I will get round to it eventually ” or is afraid about what the people on the internet will think! This is my time to do what I enjoy and maybe you might enjoy some of it too. Now that I have started to learn more about the science-fiction, the more I understand that just as much as it is important to know about time-travel and warp-drives . . . etc,  it is vitally important to understand the social and human experience of it all. What kind of people are we dealing with? What makes those people tick? and more importantly for me is how they react under extreme pressures and situations?. So yeah, I will be looking at some of the films set on our own planet, they could be real life or fiction. I just want to look at some of the social issues involved in those films and help me better understand; what is it to be human?


I recently watched Das Boot, A 1981 German war film written and directed by Wolfgang Peterson. Quite surprisingly it was second most expensive German film ever made behind Metropolis, what a great science-fiction film that is and I hope to go and look and review that eventually. Not a great overnight success but this film was nominated for a lot of awards and became one of the best German films ever made, to this day. First of all, I knew nothing about Das Boot up until about two weeks ago. Yes, I had seen the iconic posters and that had heightened my interest somewhat, but its only decades later I actually sat down and watched it. Let me tell you something though, I’m so glad I did! Be aware this film has subtitles and its never really been a bother to me, but I guess its not everyone else’s cup of tea.

The outline of the plot is that a war correspondent Lt Werner Herbert Gronemeyer has been assigned to the German submarine U-96.  joining this crew he is now introduced to a crew, each with a completely different story to tell. The most interesting character to me in this film is the Captain Jurgen Prochnow. He is a loyal friend to his crew regardless of rank and he seems to be fighting the war for his people more than any political agenda. Now I could be completely wrong? When I review a film though, I like to think about what it says to me personally but I really liked him and his approach to command. Maybe that is why I do like this film! Because it may be the first time I have ever viewed the story told from the enemy’s perspective and I find myself liking the main character, reminding me that we are all human after all. For the next three weeks, the captain and his crew seem to be on the wrong end of a losing battle as the Royal Navy are slowly beginning to take hold of the war at sea.  Lt Werner, I’m guessing is our eyes and ears in this film as he gets to meet some of the crew, as we listen about their individual stories leading up this final climatic battle. After a small victory but many misfortunes, the crew find themselves attacked by a British fighter plane, unable to escape using speed alone the captain is forced to submerge the submarine. If only it would have been a simple as that as the vessel is unable to stop diving and hits the ocean bed. The captain’s words really made me think as he proclaimed “The gods left a shovel full of sand to keep us up.” It really makes me wonder about religion, as every person looks to a higher-power when faced with a crisis!  I also intrigued how people react in the direst of circumstances, against all odds can come out with a positive result. The captain and his crew along with some great ingenuity and a lot of luck manage to raise the submarine to make an escape for freedom yet again. Now, if anyone who is reading this has seen this film before, can they explain the significance to the song “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary” Is it to show that music is above division and is enjoyed by everyone, I’m a little confused? After reaching their final destination at La Rochelle, France are relieved that they could survive such an ordeal only to then find themselves in the middle of an air strike resulting in the submarine that had taken such a previous onslaught is now sunken in front of the captain’s eyes. The captain himself is injured in the strike and also collapses and dies in front of Lt Werner who looks completely different than the fresh-faced correspondent we see in the opening scene of the film.

This film is so wonderful and I know I have missed so much out, but every second is worth a mention in this film, so I had to decide what is the most important parts for me to discuss and think about. For me it was always about the dynamic of the crew, we suffer a mental breakdown, stories of love in both the right and wrong scenarios and a real sense of a generation of youths facing such cruel realities. It’s so rich in dialogue that I can’t wait to watch it again. I really liked most of the characters and disliked others but that is true in all walks of life. I’m always getting kind of bummed out at the way the human race try to segregate themselves into groups when there really isn’t that much difference between us when you actually get down to the basics of humanity, I wonder if its something in our genes that make us react this way?.  I loved the production value and set design of this film. The submarine certainly made me feel just as isolated as the men aboard it. The visual effects of the film are a little dated but they still hold up pretty well. All in all, I am very pleased I decided to talk about a film like this as it helps me try and learn about history and humanity a little bit more. I am far from a historian or a philosopher but I think it’s very important for me personally to try and learn something about life.

Well, what is next? I’m not sure now but Das Boot has set the bar very high. Thank you for reading and please let me know what you thought of Das Boot in the comment section below. I really do enjoy reading your comments, take care.  – Colin