The Question of the Grotesque in the Film

By definition, the word "grotesque" refers to those "distorted forms" that are "strange, ugly, bizarre, or fantastic" in their appearance (Wikipedia 1). The grotesque also refers to aspects of life that repel, horrify, and cause strong feelings of disgust or repulsion. When watching Volker Schlondörff's film "The Tin Drum," the viewer is forced to look at a number of images that can easily be described as grotesque in nature. These images are often linked to sexual and consumptive acts throughout the film, but no image is more grotesque than the fantastical protagonist Oskar Matzerath, the boy who consciously decides at age three to stop growing. As Oskar leads the viewer through his family's history with the backdrop of Germany's own history before, during, and after the Third Reich, he remains a character both sympathetic and repulsive to the audience. Indeed, the film itself estranges the viewer through its grotesqueness, while at the same time containing very basic, human elements in its storytelling. This use of the grotesque, specifically the fantastic figure of Oskar, promotes the themes of ambiguity and estrangement throughout the film. It also raises questions about the reality of those who lived under, and in the shadows of, the Third Reich.
The film begins with a shot of a woman, Oskar's grandmother, in a potato field, about to hide Oskar's future grandfather under her skirts in order to prevent his imminent police capture. The protagonist Oskar, who also narrates, tells the viewer, "ich beginne [die Geschichte] weit vor mir" (Tin Drum). Though narrated by Oskar, the story's beginning comes even before the birth of its protagonist, with the bizarre and rape-like consummation of Oskar's mother Agnes. The scene does not succeed in drawing the viewer into the story; rather, it is more effective in startling the viewer and c…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *