Das rosa Boot

National Attitudes toward World War II as Exemplified in Operation Petticoat and Das Boot

The war film has been a popular American genre during the twentieth century — and of these films, those depicting the Second World War have been by far the most prolific and successful. The spectacle of large battles and the celebration of heroic acts have an alluring quality that has inspired the production of epic films such as The Bridge on the River Kwai (Lean, 1957), The Guns of Navarone (Thompson, 1961), The Longest Day (Annakin et al., 1962), and The Great Escape (Sturges, 1963). An important factor in these films’ appeal is that the (American) audience is meant to sympathize with the (Allied) winning side. Indeed, national attitudes towards wars — and war in general — are affected by the outcomes of such conflicts. Two excellent examples of differing attitudes toward World War II are Blake Edwards’s American comedy Operation Petticoat (1959) and Wolfgang Petersen’s German drama Das Boot (1981). Both films take place on military submarines, but the depictions of the two undersea voyages could scarcely be more different. While Edwards shows life aboard the U.S.S. Sea Tiger as easygoing, dynamic, and occasionally thrilling, Petersen depicts the experience of crewing U-96 as exhausting, bleak, and often deadly. Continue reading

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