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German Series in the USA
​“Das Boot”: Plumbing the depths of wartime romanticism

Titelimage "Das Boot" SKY / Hulu Series Main Cast
Titelimage Das Boot Series | Photo: ©SKY

Not really the thing for landlubbers: the series “Das Boot” is a brutally honest portrayal of the unrelenting horrors of the Second World War. Where Wolfgang Petersen’s cinematic milestone of the same name focused on the fate of a submarine crew, however, this time it is not only hostile Navy personnel but also the Gestapo and the French resistance who are battling with every means at their disposal to gain the upper hand. And this, just like in its nail-biting predecessor, is a real adrenaline rush.

By Angela Zierow

In his 1981 masterpiece “Das Boot”, which was nominated for six Oscars, the director Wolfgang Petersen depicted a submarine crew in a cold sweat and hypnotized as they stare in terror at the depth gauge, listening out for sounds from the ocean. Nothing can bring movie fans out in more chilling goosebumps than the clanging “ping” of a depth sounder. The series of the same name, for which Bavaria Fiction, Sky Deutschland, and Sonar Entertainment paid around 27 million euros, also offers the greatest possible suspense in the smallest possible space and the relentless “ping” of the sonar. However, unlike the legendary cinema version, which made stars out of actors such as Jürgen Prochnow, Herbert Grönemeyer, and Uwe Ochsenknecht, this eight-part series interweaves the on-board battle for survival with a tale of espionage linked to the French resistance. Amour also features – the story is set in France, after all, and the series doesn’t always prove capable of circumnavigating the clichés. 

40 guys, no shower, one shithole. Need any more details?

There is certainly no lack of suspense in this version directed by the Austrian Andreas Prochaska (“A Day for a Miracle”), who was responsible for 79 actors and more than 1,000 extras. The top-class cast gave a wonderful performance, especially Vicky Krieps (“Phantom Thread”), whose role earned her the German Television Award for best actress. Cameraman David Luther also won an award.
  • Still frame from the  SKY/Bavaria Series "Das Boot" © Nik Konietzny / Bavaria Fiction GmbH, 2018
    Still frame from the SKY/Bavaria Series "Das Boot"
  • Still frame from the  SKY/Bavaria Series "Das Boot" © Nik Konietzny / Bavaria Fiction GmbH, 2018
    Still frame from the SKY/Bavaria Series "Das Boot"
  • Still frame from the  SKY/Bavaria Series "Das Boot" © Nik Konietzny / Bavaria Fiction GmbH, 2018
    Still frame from the SKY/Bavaria Series "Das Boot"
  • Still frame from the  SKY/Bavaria Series "Das Boot" © Nik Konietzny / Bavaria Fiction GmbH, 2018
    Still frame from the SKY/Bavaria Series "Das Boot"
  • Still frame from the  SKY/Bavaria Series "Das Boot" © Nik Konietzny / Bavaria Fiction GmbH, 2018
    Still frame from the SKY/Bavaria Series "Das Boot"
  • Still frame from the  SKY/Bavaria Series "Das Boot" © Nik Konietzny / Bavaria Fiction GmbH, 2018
    Still frame from the SKY/Bavaria Series "Das Boot"
  • Still frame from the  SKY/Bavaria Series "Das Boot" © Nik Konietzny / Bavaria Fiction GmbH, 2018
    Still frame from the SKY/Bavaria Series "Das Boot"
  • Still frame from the  SKY/Bavaria Series "Das Boot" © Nik Konietzny / Bavaria Fiction GmbH, 2018
    Still frame from the SKY/Bavaria Series "Das Boot"
  • Still frame from the  SKY/Bavaria Series "Das Boot" © Nik Konietzny / Bavaria Fiction GmbH, 2018
    Still frame from the SKY/Bavaria Series "Das Boot"
  • Still frame from the  SKY/Bavaria Series "Das Boot" © Nik Konietzny / Bavaria Fiction GmbH, 2018
    Still frame from the SKY/Bavaria Series "Das Boot"
  • Still frame from the  SKY/Bavaria Series "Das Boot" © Nik Konietzny / Bavaria Fiction GmbH, 2018
    Still frame from the SKY/Bavaria Series "Das Boot"
  • Still frame from the  SKY/Bavaria Series "Das Boot" © Nik Konietzny / Bavaria Fiction GmbH, 2018
    Still frame from the SKY/Bavaria Series "Das Boot"
The plot of this opulent production is based on the novels “Das Boot” and “Die Festung” by Lothar-Günther Buchheim and begins in the fall of 1942. Nine months after the sinking of the U-96 – the submarine we remember from the cinema version – the Brits are using the Enigma encryption machine to make life hell for Germany’s Nazi regime and have already sunk twelve subs in short order. Simone Strasser from Alsace (played by Krieps) appears blissfully unaware of any of this, however. When she finds herself bound for La Rochelle, the translator is looking forward most of all to being reunited with her brother Frank (Leonard Scheicher), a submarine radio operator who is stationed in this French coastal town. Frank is visibly annoyed by his sister’s ignorance. When during a tour she seeks to romanticize the “floating coffin” by describing it as a cozy man-cave and wants to know “what life’s like” on board, he replies without mincing his words: “40 guys, no shower, a shithole. Need any more details?” She doesn‘t. Another thing that Simone doesn’t realize is that Frank is head over heels in love and intent on winning over resistance fighter Carla Monroe (Lizzy Caplan). When suddenly he has to set sail on an enemy mission, his sister is dragged into his illicit love affair. This is made all the more complicated by the fact that Gestapo boss Hagen Forster (Tom Wlaschiha) is also keen on the translator.
 

Frank meanwhile has other things to worry about: he is stuck on board the new and as yet untested U-612 submarine with the inexperienced Lieutenant Captain Klaus Hoffmann (Rick Orkon), who owes this first job to the “heroic death” of his father. Experienced First Officer of the Watch Karl Tennstedt (August Wittgenstein) is tasked with assisting him. It is clear that the “ingenious combination of long-term experience and youthful enthusiasm” that Frigate Captain Gluck (Rainer Bock) is raving about is anything but a good idea. Serious trouble soon starts brewing in the claustrophobic confines of the floating sardine can. And that’s only just the beginning.
 
The intrigues, errors, and conflicts at sea and on land are action-packed, brutal, heart-rending – and not infrequently end fatally. For a little while, there was even something of a spat behind the scenes: the director Wolfgang Petersen was miffed to find the producers using the title of his movie classic for their new series. The at-times abstruse plot twists and the not always successful attempt to liven up the dialogs and characters for a younger audience and the international market by adding contemporary jargon and political correctness were not equally well-received by all fans of the original.
 
No matter: “Das Boot” is true binge material, German-made but in the Hollywood style, featuring an oppressively gloomy atmosphere, sizzling tension, and the unsettling sense of being right there with the crew underwater. This is a series without unnecessary pathos and glamourous heroes that shows, quite unequivocally, that war is senseless. Another factor that serves only to exacerbate the goosebumps: the composer Matthias Weber incorporated jazz musician Klaus Doldinger’s iconic synthesizer score into his new soundtrack – complete with sonar ping.
 
It comes as no surprise that “Das Boot” is successfully riding the wave of new German series – indeed it is so successful that Sky Deutschland is already working on a second season.

Credits:
Germany 2018; Directed by Andreas Prochaska; Starring Vicky Krieps, Leonard Scheicher, Rick Orkon, Tom Wlaschiha, Lizzy Caplan, Rainer Bock, Robert Stadlober, August Wittgenstein, Franz Dinda.
German with English Subtitles; Season 1; Eight episodes of approx. 60 minutes each

 

Watch "Das BOOT"

In the USA:
HULU

In Germany:
SKY



 

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