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An Analysis Of Das Boot

1527 words - 7 pages

What is it that makes the film, "Das Boot", stand out in the plethora of war movies? Why was this film, with subtitles and about German World War 2 soldiers, popular enough in America to earn six Academy Award nominations? One possible answer is the characters.

 

Like so many other epics, the sensation of viewing pleasure goes beyond the intense plot and into the intricacy and intimacy of the building blocks of every story: the characters. Director Wolfgang Petersen's mastery is in bringing the viewer into that unfortunate submarine, makes everyone a participant in the horror as one of the characters, creating the feeling of no escape. Then, once Petersen has the viewer "in" ...view middle of the document...

They seem to fall into two categories: those who ensure stability and those who dismantle stability. Their conflicts and confrontations cause the interminable confusion, panic, and discomfort on the boat.

 

The first category of characters, composed of those determined to withstand the pressure of submarine life, consists of the captain, the chief, and Johann. By example, the captain becomes the "rock" of the boat, stern and stubborn, but yet very simple. As assured as he is by his own decisions, he is still mortal. He makes mistakes, as he did in the Gibraltar fiasco, but he maintains his cool-headedness. Even at times when the submarine is in complete disarray, he confidently proclaims "280 meters and no cracks!" just to keep the crew optimistic. Although the viewer can never really tell, the captain seems to understand the impossibility of his own decisions, but his demeanor nary strays from one of confidence and bravery. The captain is the main opposition to the insecure mates on board, constantly questioning their abilities and their decisions, but only to a point where they can resurrect themselves. This is shown when the captain gratifies Johann, even after letting him down and doubting his stability, in front of the whole crew. He symbolizes all that is positive in marine warfare: justice, honesty; courage, strength.

 

The other twosymbols of consistency of the boat, the chief and Johann, learn their bravery and fortitude by initially failing. Each has a moment of decision, standing in front of the captain, facing the opportunity of giving up, but each precedes to continue on, determined to never fail their leader. Having looked directly at the possibility of letting the whole crew down, both men become stronger than ever. Thier individual actions create some of the film's most powerful moments. Johann, after pleading for forgiveness to the disappointed captain following his mental breakdown, matures into hero by plugging the innumerable holes causing the submarine to fill up. He is an example of a man conquering his fears, by risking his life and sanity to help those around him, thus becoming a model for others.

 

The third of these characters is the chief. Initially unmotivated and eager to leave the submarine, he becomes an amazing opponent to the incessant problems accompanying the ship. His once listless attitude is transformed into a machine-like one, determined to salvage the submarine. The captain repeatedly asks him to keep working, to fight endless distractions, to perform the meticulous task of reconstructing the boat's energy source. The chief succeeds on pure will. He conquers sleep, food-deprivation, thirst, and exhaustion to fix the boat; when reporter offers a little glucose to keep his body moving, chief accepts, but immediately he shoots off to another job. By epitomizing the selfless man, the chief serves as a model for the rest of the younger sailors. He is a sign of hope,...

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