The first part of the Danzig Trilogy by GŁnter Grass, The Tin Drum
(German: Die Blechtrommel
) is a 1959 novel. Narrated by Oskar Matzerath, a dwarf of questionable sanity.
Oskar was born in 1924, in the Free City of Danzig. On Oskar's third birthday, he refused to grow up and turn into a miserable adult. Because of this, he remains a boy throughout most of his life. Along his travels, he watches the rise and fall of Nazi Germany
and discovers that eternal youth is not all that it's cracked up to be. He narrates his story from within a mental hospital. Where he is confined c. 1952-1954.
A Film of the Book
was released in 1979, covering the first two books. While plans were made to film a sequel to complete the story, it never came to pass.
The movie follows Oskar from his birth until after the end of World War II
and the Soviet Invasion where he finally decides to grow up. The film attained controversy in both Ontario and Oklahoma, due to the belief that it depicted child pornography. The cases were both quickly overruled, however.
Tropes found in both the book and the film:
- Adults Are Useless: Oskar seems to think so. He's right for the most part, too.
- Enfant Terrible: Oskar uses his childlike appearance to execute his will at the expense of his family.
- Growing Up Sucks: Although Oskar initially throws himself down the stairs to stop himself ageing, he forces himself to start again in his twenties.
- Hello, Nurse!: Oskar's Fetish.
- Karmic Death: Alfred Matzerath chokes on his own NSDAP badge.
- Kissing Cousins: Agnes and Jan Bronski.
- Love Triangle: Between Matzerath, Agnes and Jan.
- Magic Realism: Singing marks onto glass, Oskar just choosing to not grow up, the "Drumming Jesus"-miracle, etc....
- Make Me Wanna Shout: Oskar has the ability to shatter or mark glass with his voice.
- Never Found the Body: Oskar's grandfather may or may not have avoided drowning and started a new and successful life in America.
- Never Grew Up: Oskar throws himself down the stairs to effect this.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: Until his growth spurt, Oskar pretends to be on the mental level of a three year old, matching his physique.
- Pyro Maniac: Oskar's grandfather, politically motivated.
- Refusal of the Call: Jan Bronski intentionally was far away from his working place at the Polish post office when the siege by the Nazis started, and only returned reluctantly, after meeting Oskar.
- Stalker with a Crush: Oskar is this towards Nurse Dorothea.
- Those Wacky Nazis: One of Oskar's presumable fathers joins the NSDAP.
- Weimar Republic: The first book of the novel and the first act of the film, although it starts during the era of Imperial Germany and ends when the Nazis were already in charge.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Oskar endangering Jan Bronski's life, only to get a new drum. And indeed it all ends in Jan's execution! Also the stalking and near-rape of Nurse Dorothea.
- Who Wants to Live Forever?: The idea is kicked around a bit.
- World War II: The second book of the novel and much of the action in the movie.
The book provides examples of the following tropes:
- Art Shift: One chapter in Book Two reads like a script for a stage play. The purpose may be an intentional Mood Whiplash: Said chapter ends with Wehrmacht soldier Lankes shooting a group nuns.
- Cultured Warrior: Lankes, a Wehrmacht soldier who decorates bunkers with ornaments and becomes an artist after the war.
- Pals with Jesus: Oskar talks to both God and the Devil. It's not supposed to be taken literally, but whether Oskar is being metaphorical or is just that crazy is up for debate.
- Unreliable Narrator: The movie is more straightforward but in the book, there is a chance that perhaps Oskar just made up all this stuff, being not entirely sane. It doesn't help that he is telling us this story while in an asylum.
- Stalker Shrine: Actually more like Stalker Relic: Oskars prays to Nurse Dorothea's severed finger.
- West Germany: The third book of the novel.
The film provies examples of the following tropes:
- Banned in China: The film actually sparked a good deal of controversy because the very much underage actor buried his face in a naked and equally underage actress's crotch (or so it seemed... it never dawned on Moral Guardians that trick photography was used) and other stuff that the Brain Bleach mercifully washed away. These cases were overruled, eventually.
- Dawson Casting: David Bennent (Oskar) was a child at the time of filming but he was not three years old, which was supposed to be the time in which he stopped aging. There is even a brief scene in which we see Oskar as a fetus in the womb.
- The Film of the Book: Won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 1979. It was also highly praised at Cannes.