Wednesday, September 23, 2015
I've never read Günter Grass's novel, in part because satiric grotesquerie isn't to my taste. (I'm one of the few people I know who hated A Confederacy of Dunces.) But I gave the film version a second look (I watched it once while writing my Oscar book) because it came around on TCM and I thought maybe my indifference to it on the first viewing might have changed. It did, after all, win not only the Cannes Palme d'Or but also the foreign film Oscar. It's still true that 11-year-old David Bennent gives an astonishing performance as Oskar, who has consciously chosen to remain a 3-year-old for the rest of his life. I still find some of the scenes in which Oskar makes love to Maria (Katharina Thalbach) are queasy-making, with Bennent and 24-year-old Thalbach going through the required, if discreetly filmed, motions. And I still find the acting in the film overstated and the thematic coherence of the story wobbly. This time I was able to appreciate some of the comic sequences more fully, such as the one in which Oskar sabotages a Nazi rally by playing a waltz rhythm on his drum, confusing the brass band and making the participants dance with one another. But as a fable about German history, which Grass's novel is said to be, the movie lacks focus.