Visit to Bavaria Filmstadt and Das Boot

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By Carl Kruse

Supposedly it’s difficult to make anti-war films because movies tend to make war look exciting.  That’s probably true but not for Wolfang Petersen’s “DAS BOOT” (1981) one of the best anti-war films ever.

Original 1981 poster for the film.

Petersen followed the exploits and the ultimate demise of the German crew of U-96 during the Battle of the Atlantic in a beautifully crafted, riveting production, or as beautiful a film can be in which the protagonists do not end well.  Based on the 1973 novel “Das Boot” by Lothar-Günther Bucheim, who turned his war time experience as a foreign correspondent aboard the real U-96 into a fictionalized novel.

Kapitänleutnant Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock, commander of U-96.
Actual photo of Kapitänleutnant Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock, commander of U-96, on watch on a moonlit night taken by Lothar-Günther Buchheim. “Kapitänleutnant” literally translates to “captain lieutenant” but is generally regarded as a lieutenant commander in anglophone navies. U-96 was on her seventh combat patrol when Lothar-Günther Buchheim joined her.

I’ve always admired Das Boot and had the chance to roam the set of the film at Bavaria Filmstadt Studios in Munich, Germany.  Other films made here include The Great Escape (1968), Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971), and The Neverending Story (1984).  

Part of the studios are open to the public and although somewhat Disneyfied, where you can “ride” Falkor or explore the “interior” of U-96, I found it worth a visit and recommend it to film lovers.  A 25-minute drive from central Munich, and an afternoon at the place is all you need.

Marvel at the magic that converts sets into heaving U-boats though be forewarned – there is a reason magicians are loath to reveal the secrets behind their tricks.

Carl Kruse Das Boot

Selfie inside the torpedo room of U-96.

The U-96 conning tower. Magic disappears when the trick is revealed.
Interior view of U-96

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