On this day (11 April) in 1980, the Cannes Palme d’Or winning West German film The Tin Drum got its international release in the US, and would go on to win a Best Foreign Film Oscar at the 52nd Academy Awards (14 April). But it’s only now (32 years later) that the original theatrical version and the Director’s Cut of Volker Schlöndorff’s film have become available for the home cinema market.
Based on the first book in the acclaimed Danzig Trilogy by controversial author Günter Grass – who recently caused a political row over his poem What Must Be Said about the Iran-Israeli conflict – The Tin Drum follows the life of Oskar (David Bennent) who refuses to grow up after receiving a drum for his third birthday. With a scream that shatters glass, Oskar becomes so attached to the drum that anyone who tries to take it away from him soon feels his aural wrath. What follows is a child’s-eye perspective on the rise of Nazism in Oskar’s native Danzig, the ‘free city’ that was claimed by both Germany and Poland whose invasion in 1939 started World War II.
Darkly comic in spirit and awash with bizarre, grotesque imagery (some of which remains controversial), The Tin Drum is like the perfect marriage of Pasolini politics, Buñuel satire and Fellini freak show. But it’s the standout performance of the 12-year-old Bennett that truly carries the film and stay with you forever.
The Arrow Academy release includes both High Definition and Standard Definition presentations of the original theatrical version, and a HD presentation of the Director’s Cut (on Blu-ray only). Both are approved by the director, who also provides an audio commentary, and (on the Blu-ray only) an interview about the new cut. There’s also a comprehensive booklet with some scholarly writings for New German Cinema enthusiasts.