The TIn Drum

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In the East Prussia of Danzig before the war, three-year-old Oskar Matzerath decides to stop growing — and succeeds — then finds playing his favorite toy, a tin drum, useful for tuning out things that annoy him, like his mother’s dallying with their Polish boarder, the Nazi rallies his father attends, or even the advent of war itself. This powerful symbol has been variously interpreted since Danzig native Günter Grass’s first novel made him world-famous, and it remains ambiguously multi-layered in Schlöndorff’s epic adaptation. (Grass had nixed filming for twenty years, but, after seeing the script by Schlöndorff and Buñuel collaborator Jean-Claude Carrière, not only gave his consent but worked on the dialogue himself.)

Volker Schlöndorff.  142 mins, Rated R.  In German with English subtitles.

Join Barton Byg, Professor of German and Scandinavian Studies/Film Studies, UMass Amherst for his discussion, The Tin Drum, From Novel to Film, Tuesday, May 7 @ 7pm at Jones Library Woodbury Room. Günter Grass's novel The Tin Drum (1959) and its Oscar-winning adaptation by Volker Schlöndorff (1979) provide a fascinating basis for discussion on a number of topics: the relation of art to history, the changing views of where "Eastern Europe" begins and ends (from before World War II through the Cold War to the present), and the authority with which the author speaks. Once virtually unchallenged as the "conscience of his generation," Grass's position has been drastically re-evaluated in regard to both his recent revelation of his membership in the SS as a young man and his controversial statements regarding international issues. The novel and film, for their part, have lost little of their aesthetic power.

Presented in collaboration with the Jones Library in Amherst