I'm excited to finally see this infamous, controversial film, and, given The Criterion Collection's involvement, this disc will make it well worth the wait.
Movie Grade: A
DVD Grade: A-
Classifying filmmaker Volker Schlöndorff’s controversial 1979 film, The Tin Drum, along with
author Günter Grass’s 1959 novel of the same name, has been a nearly impossible feat through the decades. Part-
intense drama, part-fantasy film, and often tinged with a darkly comedic element that one wouldn’t expect from a
story involving Nazis and the Holocaust, this unforgettable cinematic journey, nevertheless, has lost none of its
emotional impact. The original theatrical version of the film had a 142-minute running time and went on to win
both the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, and the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. The version on this
spectacular new Criterion Collection Blu-ray disc is Schlöndorff’s final, 163-minute cut of the film, which he put
together in 2010, restoring key sequences and story elements that, while changing some character arcs and on-
screen happenings, still keep everything about his original vision intact.
Oskar (David Bennent) is a young boy living in a land, and a time where he’s surrounded by adults who are literally
and figuratively at war with each other. Oskar lives in Danzig, a city that was taken over by the Nazi party in 1933,
but is still free when he is born in 1924. At the age of 3, Oskar decides that he is going to stay the size that he is and
stop growing, so he throws himself down a large set of cellar steps at his house. His crippling injury pales into
comparison to the plight of his family, including his mother, Agnes (Angela Winkler), who is entangled with two
men, her husband, Alfred Matzerath (Mario Adorf), and Oskar’s biological father, Jan Bronski (Daniel Olbrychski).
Oskar’s family life soon goes down an even darker road, but, as social and political problems escalate, he begins
associating with Bebra (Fritz Hakl) a member of a traveling circus, and falls in love with Roswitha (Mariella Oliveri),
and while he might never physically grow, Oskar is certainly maturing at a rate he never expected.
The Tin Drum is Volker Schlöndorff at his fatalist best, infused by an unforgettable lead acting performance that is
both touching and creepy. We’ll get to Bennent’s haunting work in a minute, as what Schlöndorff has done here
could have so easily blown up in his face, rather than carry the same weight and relevance now as it did back in
1979. 30+ years later, The Tin Drum is considered, by many, to be a classic of international cinema, with many
film fanatics clamoring for this longer cut for years. This is Schlöndorff at his Fellini-esque best, keeping us well-
entrenched in Oskar’s world, while, at the same time, never truly grounding us in the Nazi-fueled unrest that was a
staple of his environment. There’s plenty of symbolism thrown about, and some truly surreal set pieces (Oskar’s
birth being the highlight of these), and it’s this somehow subtly otherworldliness that makes The Tin Drum so
While Schlöndorff does plenty to make The Tin Drum a challenging masterpiece on his own, it’s difficult to
remember anything about the film without David Bennent’s performance being the first thing that comes to mind.
Sure, Bennent is still short in stature even to this day, but he was 11-years-old during the film’s shoot, making the
evolution of his performance even more remarkable. It would be different if The Tin Drum was shot over a
decade or so, and Bennent actually aged over a similar period that Oskar does. That’s far from the case though,
and to watch what Bennent does with Oskar is something that we still rarely see amongst even today’s best actors.
Bennent has appeared in less than 10 films since this landmark performance (Legend and Spike Lee’s She Hate
Me amongst them), but he has enjoyed a lengthy career in theater, likely thanks in large part to this performance
for the ages.
Criterion’s Blu-ray disc presents the film in its original 1.66:1 aspect ratio, this video was encoded with MPEG-4
AVC and is a 1080p transfer. This newly-restored HD digital transfer was created from a 35mm interpositive,
struck from the original negative, and it looks incredible full of detailed images that exhibit a depth that they never
have before. The colors are bright and vibrant, working in tandem with well-handled contrast and shadow levels.
The German DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track allows us to hear the film in the most dynamic way possible. While
this won’t sound like a brand new action film, or anything similar, it still features nice dynamic range, solid bass
presence, and, most importantly, crystal clear dialogue at all times.
The awesome extras collection begins with a 67-minute interview with director Volker Schlöndorff, conducted by
the Criterion Collection in 2012. During the piece, he goes into great detail about the making of The Tin Drum,
talks quite a bit about various adaptations, and, in the best portion of it, speaks about why this remastered cut of
the film came about. Next, is another new interview, this time running roughly 20 minutes, and featuring film
scholar Timothy Corrigan, who talks, at length, about the style and themes of The Tin Drum, and its importance in
German cinema. The Platform is a look at an eight-minute sequence from the film, but, instead of hearing the
original soundtrack, we hear an audio recording of author Günter Grass, as he reads the same passage from his
novel, making for a unique supplemental feature. We also get a quartet of TV Interviews, running more than 13
minutes and the trailer for The Tin Drum.