Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Das Boot (1981)

Today's film is Das Boot, an awesome drama about life on a submarine with lots of explosions.  What I enjoyed most was the realism of how cramped the sub (or U-boat) was, and how it showed that governments don't necessarily represent the people.

Daily Life on the Sub

What struck me the most was simply showing how cramped the sub was and knowing how many people lived on it.  One bathroom for 50 men?  Yeah,  my sisters couldn't even share one bathroom properly.  I did like how when the sailors were running through the sub, the cameraman would follow, and it would look like I was running through the sub, too!  The filmmakers filmed everything from the inside of the sub instead of being in a huge set, to give a true sense of claustrophobia.

Inside my great-grandfather's sub.  I didn't take any photos
myself so this is the best one I could find.

This film gave me a greater appreciation for my great-grandfather, who served on a sub similar to this.  His sub was sent on several missions from 1941-1943.  A few years ago, I was given the opportunity to tour his exact sub.  Everything was left exactly as it was from 1943.  I could not believe how tiny and close everything was!  Also, all the old fashioned technology they used was so neat!  Granted, this sub held 65 men while the one in the film held 50,  but people still slept on hammocks that were stacked on top of each other.  Even though I have been in a sub, I never got to see on in action.  This film combined the small spaces with the panic of everyone experiencing the explosions (mostly depth charges from a destroyer).  Also, as the sub dives deeper and deeper, the pressure increases and could destroy it!

The Sailors 

You know, it's really easy to dismiss these people because they're fighting for Nazi Germany.  But they're not.  They're fighting for Germany.  Just like they did the World War I and everything else.  People serve their country, not their governments.  In fact, it only appears like there's one true Nazi on the entire boat.  That's the clean-shaven one.  So when everyone goes to the fancy boat,  the Nazis celebrate him as the captain.  He apologizes and points out the true captain, that is bearded with his hat on and looks like he came from an Hemingway novel.

The main mission is to bomb the merchant ships while avoiding the destroyers.  But guess what?  The destroyers still find them and drop their depth charges on them!  The captain assumes that "they must have seen our periscope".  What he didn't know was that the Allies had developed radar and was using it to find submarines underwater.

The Strait of Gibraltar

The captain has been told that their sub must go through the Strait of Gibraltar to make it into the Mediterranean Sea.  Everyone is upset about this, and for good reason.  The strait has many varying depths, and the best way to go through it without being seen is to go at night and ride the currents.  I did some research and found that a total of 62 subs went through, and 9 sunk to the bottom.  Out of all these subs, not one ever returned to the Atlantic Ocean.  Not one.  That's bad news for these sailors.

It turns out that this sub actually does sink to the bottom.  It springs a leak, and with almost nothing working out the sub, the sailors bail out all the water with buckets.  And the sub rises to the surface and keeps going like nothing happened.  Really?  Are you kidding?  There is no way that I will buy that this could happen.  No way.  And then, once they reach land and are celebrating, an air raid appears and kills everyone.  Wow, all that work on the sub, and they die right afterwards.  That has to say something, but I don't know what.
Anyway, for the most part I enjoyed this film.  Even if you don't like long films, this has more than enough tension, panic, and explosions (literal explosions! Lots!) that will keep you entertained.  I will give this film an 8/10.


  1. That's great that you got to go on the sub your ancestor served on. I worked with a man who had served onboard a submarine and Das Boot was his favorite film.

    In regards to the water being bailed, they weren't bailing it out of the sub, but into the ballast tanks. When a sub dives it takes water into the ballast tanks and when it rises it expels the water from the ballast tanks. They got the water inside the sub back into the ballast tanks and then when they got equipment working they expelled the water from the tanks back into the ocean which therefore caused the sub to rise.

    It's like when you put a cup in a sink of water. At first the cup will float, but as more and more water goes into the cup it sinks to the bottom. If you pick up the cup and pour enough of the water out of it, though, it will go back to floating in the water. Air is lighter than water so an object filled with air will float in water just like how a helium balloon will float in the air because helium is lighter than air.

    1. Thanks for explaining that to me. I sort of understand.