The Boat (Das Boot)

Das Boot

They made us all train for this day.

One of the most highly regarded naval war films of all time, Das Boot is more than just a funny-sounding title to be mocked and parodied. It’s a harrowing account of life aboard a German submarine, or U-boat, with all that that entails – the adrenaline-charged action of naval battles, coupled with the tedium of the rest of the time when there is little going on; Das Boot captures it all. This also means it is one hell of a lengthy film; I saw the director’s cut, which weighed in at 3 hours and 20 minutes, but there are several versions floating around, from a 2 1/2 hour theatrical cut to an almost five hour television miniseries.

Where some films might want to dramatize the war for additional entertainment purposes, Das Boot is content to merely provide an authentic historical backdrop, and to let the proceedings carry on all by themselves. It’s almost a documentary, the way it sits in the background and simply watches as the events unfold, capturing them on camera solely for the sake of our viewing them. It’s pretty much thanks to the musical score and the excellent acting that we are reminded this is a fictional film. Surprising moments of poignancy are interspersed with the action sequences, making the film very full and complete, at least for how it feels. This is also, I learned after watching the film, one of the best examples of overdubbing I’ve personally seen; due to the restrictions of recording sound in the U-boats, the entire film was recorded silent, with all audio added after shooting. This would be impressive enough, given the highly technical aspect of the production, but one would never notice this fact were it not directly mentioned; that’s how well done the audio work is. Kudos to the filmmakers on that.

People that generally detest lengthy films will admittedly have a hard time getting through this one, as part of the length is spent documenting what the crew does to pass the time, however they can, in-between calls to order. This makes for a very realistic production, one that is highly engrossing given the chance, but I can see how some would find it boring and a waste of running time. This film isn’t concerned with those people; this is selling itself to the historical crowd, the crowd that wants to experience what life must have really been like day-to-day on one of these submarines, and in that, Das Boot succeeds infinitely. I personally loved the film, even with its length, and I’m generally one to get impatient at a film when it runs over 2 1/2 hours, but this worked nicely for that curious side of me, and I hope you give it a chance as well.

Arbitrary Rating: 9/10

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4 thoughts on “The Boat (Das Boot)

  1. I’ve never been bothered by the length of this film. I love it and think it’s one of the great movies of its decade.

    This is such a claustrophobic film–few films can make me want to go outside because I feel like the walls are closing in, but this on does that to me.

    • They used full-size mock-ups of actual U-boats for the sets, which I’m sure helped immensely. Apparently Petersen was so perfectionistic he insisted everything down to the screws be original World War II era parts of a German U-boat. Gotta love it when films go the extra mile.

  2. The score of Das Boot is really a selling point, especially the opening theme with the submarine materializing our of the murky, dark-green water. It still gives me the shivers.

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