S( KII.NnMoral RevanchismnDas Boot; Written and directed bynWolfgang Petersen; Triumph Films (Andivision of Columbia Pirtures).nby Eric ShapearonWar is hopeless and cruel—we knownthat. A movie that seriously intends tonmake this point once again must thereforenput its efforts into saying somethingnmore. The authors oiDas Boot try hard,nbut all they can come up with is a clumsynrevisionism whose intensely suggestednconclusion is that the Germans werenboth human and humane, and that theynwere dragged into World War II againstna palpable popular will which actuallynoscillated between apathy and outrightnpacifism. That the Germans were and arenhuman—that is, prone to feelings andnsufferings like everybody else—is an axiomnnot in need of substantiation.nWhether they were humane—as a nation,na fighting force, or in any other collectivensense—that depends on thenperiod under discussion and on how highnthe collective German disappointmentsnand frustrations had mounted at thentime. To claim that they were unenthusiasticnabout the war in 1941, whennthey were winning it and had conquerednthe largest chunk of Eurasia since Napoleon,nis an outright, gross distortion ofnthe reality that many of us still remember.nThe movie opens with a scene thatnepitomizes its historical falsity: at a boozingnbinge in a navy officers’ club in LanRochellc (the most powerful Germannsubmarine base on the French Atlanticncoast), everybody is more or less antinazi,nnobody uses the SiegHei/gtecting,na drunken Kitterkreutztrager insultsnHitler through a microphone, and thenfilm’s protagonist openly expresses hisndisillusionment and misgivings. Inn1941? At that time, the German navynelite was inebriated with its successes; itnwas highly disciplined and wellmannered,nanimated by an atrociousndedication to the war’s objectives.nAnyone foolish enough to publiclyndoubt Hitler’s genius, even the highestdecoratednwar hero, would not be permittednto vomit comfortably in a restroomnbut would instead wake up thennext morning in a special SS prison. Suchngross distortions of factuality abound innDas Boot: The U-boat gets an ordernrouting it through the Strait of Gibraltarninto the Mediterranean, an unheard-ofnassignment at that time, on par withnordering an astronaut to reach the moonnf-y.nnnin a glider. After all its ordeals and tribulations,nthe ship finally berths at its base,nonly to be destroyed, along with its entirencrew, by a deus ex machina attack bynBritish bombers—a particularly ludicrousndenouement that is both historicallynand technically inane—the Luftwaffenreigned supreme over the continentnat that time, and—at any time—nGerman naval bases had advance-warningnsystems that prevented Allied airnsquadrons from popping in out of thenblue like a drugged motorcycle gang.nBut the most crass abuses are in the artisticnlayer of the movie. As someone nextnto me said, the only change in the mennon screen is the growth of their beards.nThe tepid anti-Hitlerism of the charactersnis never supported dialectically orndramatically: there’s a mood of routinennaturalism in the combat scenes, whichnproves that war is abject and senseless,nbut we knew that before we settled in ournseats. The ratio of pro- and anti-nazi attitudesnis grossly falsified—at that time,nmost of the German military was pronazi;nhere and there might have nested ancautious rebel, but in Das Boot it is justnthe reverse. And in still another exercisenin phoniness, the German U-boat crew,nafter having torpedoed a British tanker,nweep as they watch British seamen jumpnfrom the sinking ship to their mercilessnfate. (That’s a factual blunder, too, fornit’s unbelievable that the destroyers innthe British convoy would have donennothing—after chasing away the attackers—tonevacuate the priceless crew from anvessel that was aflame but still afloat fornat least six hours, according to the plotactionntiming.)nAfter the war, the Germans made annumber of revisionist movies purportingnto show the truth about the war, whichnthey claimed had been twisted by Hollywood’snserialized propaganda imagery.nOne of them, Die Brucke, was a masterpiece,na study in sincerity and sensitivity.nDas Boot is not in that class. Dni41nDecember 198Sn