Childhood is a brief moment in human development whereby purity and innocence are the norm. A significant aspect of that time is spent in the depths of imaginative play with the aid of toys bought by well-meaning adults. The presents’ uses in play purposely and inadvertently serve to shield children from the mundane yet cruel world of adults. As time passes, former children decide whether to cling to the naiveties of their past or to embrace a new adult chapter in their lives with fortitude. The polarizing 1979 film “The Tin Drum” directed by Volker Schlondorff and adapted from the 1959 novel by Gunter Grass explores this struggle in the midst of the impending doom of WWII.
Oskar Matzerath (David Bennent) is introduced into the world with a promise of a tin drum at the age of three. His life leading up to this point is filled with confusion including the true identity of his father as well as the seemingly harsh conundrums adults face. He resolves that he never wants to grow up with the receipt of his tin drum, forcibly falling down a flight of stairs and permanently stunting his growth. Oskar subsequently discovers his talent for shattering glass via high-pierced shrieking, initially using this tool as a means of self-security. However, this aptitude does nothing to protect Oskar against the jarring actualities associated with adultery, death, romance, employment, discrimination, and the inhumanities of the Nazi party. Adulthood is beckoning Oskar; his appearance and his tin drum can no longer shield him.
This film was applauded by critics upon initial release, winning the lauded Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and the Palme d’Or. It was also met with great controversy regarding the portrayal of underage sex. Some aspects of the film were uncomfortable and difficult to watch. However, a blend of satire, comedy, and the contrast between Oskar’s inner fantasy world and the inevitability of living the full spectrum of life provides a very unique means of telling this dark story. We each experience bleakness in our lives, and use of our own versions of ‘tin drums’ as well as time as temporary shields. We may revert to childlike states in these circumstances. It is therefore vital to use a combination of our emotions and technical skills to face these challenges, helping us to feel accomplished and potentially propelling us into the next chapter of our lives.
I do not own the above image.