The Tin Drum | Chicago Reader

The Tin Drum

142 minutes

Brutality, mortality, and sexuality are the focus of horror in Volker Schlöndorff's 1979 adaptation of Günter Grass's slippery allegory, about a malignant Peter Pan who refuses to grow up and join the adult world of 20th-century Europe. If his continual beating of his tin drum is a cry of conscience, it's not a conscience involved in the horror but imposed on it—a distanced point of view that makes many of the judgments seem facile, sterile, too simple. The cartoonish style that Schlöndorff has affected—speeded-up action, grotesque acting, distorting lenses—adds a further distance, and the horror is trivialized, compartmentalized: it belongs to them, not to us, and we can brush it off. The film's frequent recourses to la nausee, however, make it a poor choice for after-dinner moviegoing. In German with subtitles.

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