Das Boot

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Das Boot. I really had no idea what to expect from a 293 minute movie filmed almost entirely in a German U-Boat, but I assumed it would be a boring drag, and that we would want to fast forward to the real action. I am so happy to be so very wrong. Das Boot is incredible, and deserves every accolade it receives.

We did not consider watching the dubbed version, even though the actors did their own English dubbing. I am so glad we didn’t watch it with dubbing because hearing German actors speaking in their native tongue, while reading the English interpretations of their idioms, was amazing. And truly, with this movie,  you could watch it like a silent movie, with only their contemporary music on the soundtrack, and you would completely understand every moment. Like All Quiet on the Western Front decades before it, the lives of soldiers are frequently quiet, insular, collective, and requires very little dialogue to understand the feelings behind their wounded eyes.

The terrified faces of the crew on the U-96 will be burned into my memory as a true face of a long and pointless battle. A lot has been written about Das Boot, and there is nothing much I can add.  The expressions of horror, sadness, relief, madness, futility…you see it all, and it is draining. It’s exhausting to watch the soldiers fighting a war they did not choose, far from their home, knowing they are losing the battle.

Erich Maria Remarque, author of “All Quiet on the Western Front,” said of his novel, “[This] is to be neither an accusation nor a confession, and least of all an adventure, for death is not an adventure to those who stand face to face with it. It will try simply to tell of a generation of men who, even though they may have escaped (its) shells, were destroyed by the war.”

Das Boot is definitely an anti-war movie, just by showing the grinding, boring, day-in, day-out pointlessness of war. If you wait for the butterfly to rise above the final battle scene to clearly telegraph the futility of war, you won’t get that. The entire five hours is that butterfly.