After settling his differences with a Japanese P.O.W. camp commander, a British Colonel co-operates to oversee his men's construction of a railway bridge for their captors, while oblivious to a plan by the Allies to destroy it.
It is 1942 and the German submarine fleet is heavily engaged in the so-called "Battle of the Atlantic" to harass and destroy British shipping. With better escorts of the destroyer class, however, German U-boats have begun to take heavy losses. "Das Boot" is the story of the crew of one such U-Boat, with the film examining how these submariners maintained their professionalism as soldiers and attempted to accomplish impossible missions, all the while attempting to understand and obey the ideology of the government under which they served.Written by
Anthony Hughes <email@example.com>
Several additional scenes were scripted based on the original "Das Boot" novel, but in the end were never filmed due to budget and time constraints. In the original script, the U-Boat departs from St. Nazaire and docks at La Rochelle only at the end of the film due to heavy damage and an inability to reach its home port. The escape out of Gibraltar is also extended somewhat including the U-boat stopping a passenger liner and nearly sinking it, but at the last moment realizing the ship is of Spanish registry. The U-boat also encounters another submarine with an inexperienced crew at the entrance to La Rochelle harbor. The second submarine strikes a mine and the entire crew must be rescued. Finally, the character of Lieutenant Werner is much more heavily explored in the original script, including a love interest where Werner was seeing a French girl and by the end of the film suspected she was a member of the French resistance. See more »
In the first crash dive, the sky is clearly blue when the 2WO shouts "Alarm!" However, when the U-96 dives, the sky is now grey. See more »
Out boatswain's mate. Been on quite a bender tonight.
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On the DVD release the subtitle content is significantly different from the version shown on cable. Hitler is not disparaged the same way at the going away bash for example. See more »
While it has been a very long time since I have seen this movie, it is one of the very few that I own. Wolfgang Petersen's magnificent accomplishment in "Das Boot" is reiterating the dictum that "war is hell", no matter which side you look at it from and no matter where the battlefield is located.
*** Minor spoilers ***
The plot has been well described by other viewers so I won't rehash it again. But my personal observations, as an ex-submarine sailor, are that Petersen probably portrayed life on board the sub pretty accurately. I say "probably" because todays subs are hotels compared with the German U-boats and American submarines. The commonality between yesterday and today is how the crew deals with being closed up in a "sewer pipe" for weeks at a time. More importantly, you as a viewer become an invisible crew member as the crew lives in very cramped conditions (American WW2 subs used to be called "pig boats"), deals with an unfortunately believable political officer, deals with drills, actual torpedo firings, actual ships casualties, and deals, most frighteningly, with retribution from the "enemy". My own experience watching the depth charging of the U-boat was such that I was thinking "stop it, Stop It, STOP IT, STOPITSTOPITSTOPIT...!!!!!" That's how real it felt to me. For the rest of you, I feel certain you will too be dragged in and know what it is like to live on board a WW2 U-boat.
This movie also shows how leadership is so important in keeping the crew (and ultimately the sub) together. Petersen's direction for Captain Lehmann-Willenbrock was masterful because it didn't portray the captain as a god. It showed him as a man who knows how to lead, knows his submarine as if he were married to it (and in many ways he is) but isn't perfect at the job. It also shows that even with great leadership qualities, Captain Lehmann-Willenbrock can not do the job alone: he must have both officers and enlisted men who have the knowledge and skill to not just do their jobs, but to also advise the captain. Petersen also managed to give each member of the crew their own separate personalities instead of the predictable cookie-cutter personalities that Hollywood feels is needed.
I could go on and on. So I will close by saying that with the plot, direction, cinematography, acting, sound, music, editing all being top notch, this is one of the few movies that I can truly rate a 10 out of 10. I also preferred the German version with subtitles.
I believe that this movie was either the first or one of the first to use Steadicam technology. It was truly amazing for me to see a camera zip its way through a submarine, specifically through the open watertight doors, without a break in the filming. Up until I heard what Steadicam was, I was always wondering how Petersen managed to hide the camera dolly track or the wires the camera hung from.
(It turns out I was wrong: "Bound For Glory" was the first.)
EDIT (12 OCT, 2006): I have been corrected by an observant viewer. Wikipedia has the following comment on what I thought was Steadicam usage:
"Most of the interior shots were filmed using a hand-held Arriflex of cinematographer Jost Vacano's design to convey the claustrophobic atmosphere of the boat. It had a gyroscope to provide stability, a reinvention of the Steadicam on a smaller scale, so that it could be carried throughout the interior of the mock-up. Vacano wore full-body padding to minimize injury as he ran and the mock-up was rocked and shaken."
So, literally, a Steadicam was NOT used in the filming of "Das Boot". However, a camera that resembled Steadicam in function (in the way it gyroscopically leveled the filming platform) was used.
Even though todays submarines are far cleaner then their predecessors, and we have refrigerators, freezers, air conditioning, are able to take showers, etc., there is one aspect of living in an enclosed space that still lives on: the smell. While the smell of the "pig boats" of WW2 was truly atrocious, even with todays ability to clean the atmosphere, you can not escape the fact that any smell that is created, from burned toast in the galley, from the smell of the "sanitary gasses" (to be kind), to gasified hydraulic oil and diesel fuel, all these particulates will eventually become absorbed in your clothing. You, as a sailor, may get used to it, but when you get home, your wife will most likely declare that you smell like a submarine and demand that whatever you are wearing get thrown in the wash ... immediately!
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