The Tin Drum

1979 coming-of-age film

Rating: 18/20

Plot: Oskar, the son of either his uncle or another guy, decides to stop growing at the age of three. He spends his days annoying people with a toy drum and breaking glass with his horrifying scream. World War II comes along which ruins everything.

"We dwarfs and fools shouldn't dance on concrete that was poured for giants."

Are there other movies that show the birth of the main character from the point of view of the main character?

This movie feels like it's got one foot firmly placed in reality, one foot tap-dancing in a dream, and one foot kicking dust around in the absurd. That's right. This movie's got three legs. It's the type of movie that demands your attention, and for those willing to devote their attention to the lengthy story that never feels complete and frustrates with its tangents, it will likely resonate in different ways. People living in Europe, people who lived in Europe during the rise of the Third Reich, people with a rudimentary knowledge of 20th Century history, and dwarfs will probably view the movie in a variety of ways. And I imagine people will have different ideas about what Oskar represents. Is he a certain type of people pre-war, perpetually childish and powerless and beating on drums? Is he another type of people, trying to be heard with his screams and percussive talents in a world filled with adults and the consequences of adults? Is he a certain type of people post-war, stunted and looking for a place in the world? Is he a country? Is he a continent?

I love this movie from the start. It's got an otherworldly vibe, the sort of thing that fits right in with other 70's greats. It's timeless even though it all takes place during one of the most recognizable times in mankind's history. And from the get-go, you get a feeling that it's a movie that can take you anywhere. It flows organically, even when what is happening is really weird. It's thought provoking, and there's also some black comedy throughout. At times, it's difficult to approach because you get the feeling it's a very personal look at growing up during a time in history where things like this are happening, but at the same time, you're absorbed by these characters and their situations.

A lot of the greatness of this is in the performance of the kid who plays Oskar. David Bennett ended up topping the five-foot mark, but this was really his size at the age of 11 when he starred in The Tin Drum. You see the story through his wide eyes, and no matter how often you spend with the character--and I think he's pretty much in every single scene in this movie--you never really get used to him. He always seems out of place, alien. He carries the film on his little shoulders, and it's really a performance that would be remarkable for anybody. But for an 11-year-old to display this naive wisdom is especially amazing. Once you see this movie, you never forget this performance.

A still from a hilarious scene where Oskar tries aftershave, screams, and slaps his face with both hands. It's later referenced in Home Alone

There are other little people in the movie, too. Mariella Oliveri, I'm surprised to find out, wasn't in any other movies. She plays one of the little people performers later in the movie and gets a great final scene that combines tragedy and comedy beautifully. Fritz Hakl was really great as Bebra. I could have sworn he was also in Even Dwarfs Started Small, but I'm getting my little people confused again. Bebra has clown pals and plays beautiful music with glasses. I also liked the woman who played Oskar's mom--Angela Winkler. I especially liked her nude scene, and I think most fascists would have, too.

Once seen, this is the type of movie that is never forgotten. Of course, I saw it about ten years ago and had forgotten most of it, so what do I know? But that horse's head on the beach, allusions to Kristallnacht, Nazi dance sequences, scenes where Oskar madly plays that drum or breaks glass with his screeching, all those fish. It's all puzzle imagery in a completely fascinating and fantastic movie.

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