The Film

The Director’s Visions

It was 1981 when DAS BOOT first took its audience on its amazing journey. The audience were incarcerated at sea in the U-96 – which was one of the infamous submarines which patrolled the North Atlantic, posing a serious menace to Allied shipping – taking part in countless extremely dangerous skirmishes between the tired and desperate crew and the enemy destroyers. The submariners apparently had no will to win the war, but wanted only to return happy and healthy to their women and children. Over the next 15 years, DAS BOOT was appreciated by famous critics and filmmakers, amongst them one Steven Spielberg, who watched it over and over again as one of the best films of all time. Besides the exceptional intensity of the staging and its high level of craftsmanship and technical ability, this film decisively influenced modern action cinema.

How did he arrive at the idea of making a classic film even better?

The reason for this lay quite clearly in the unusual production method of the film. At the beginning of the 1980's, Wolfgang Petersen had two aims in staging the submarine action: On the one hand, to produce a big film for an international audience, and on the other hand, to complete a six-hour-long epic for TV. Wolfgang Petersen and his editor Hannes Nikel succeeded in making a film which was greatly appreciated by the critics as well as by the audience. But Petersen always had the feeling that the film could be even better. Now, more than 300,000 metres of film material provided him with the basis to be able to finally realise his dream. In addition, Petersen said: "Although my film worked well in the cinema, I always wanted to produce my own original version. A version which is intended to be viewed according to a purely artistic point of view, and not just a commercial one. With the huge amount of basic material available to us, it was obvious that we just had to seize this rare chance to improve the film, purely from that point of view.“

During his whole career, Petersen had been interested in the latest technical developments in the film sector, and he became fascinated by the idea of adapting DAS BOOT to today's standards.

"The film's concept was intended to rest, from the outset, on its extreme realism. The audience should experience the claustrophobic and tense atmosphere on board as closely as possible. Today's technology provides us with the ideal means to do this“, says Petersen enthusiastically. "Above all, the digital soundtrack intensifies the experience for the spectator. For the men on board, their ears were their most important sense. There were no windows and no possibility to escape, so they concentrated upon noises as landmarks. This necessity has to be understood by the audience. So it was decisive that the sound effects were produced as realistically as possible.“

Petersen placed great value on the further precise development of the characters, an aspect which he had already brought to the centre of attention during the original film version. "The nerve-jangling tension which originates between people who are stuck together in a narrow space has always strongly interested me. Nobody can withdraw once aboard, and, as a filmmaker, one is forced to concentrate exclusively on the human relationships, as well as on the tense atmosphere“, says Petersen, who celebrated worldwide success with "Air Force One". "And I think that I have finally achieved closure with this version, and it is the way I always wanted it to be. This will hopefully become apparent to the audience in this respect when they feel even closer to the characters than before and really understand what it means for a crew to serve in a submarine.“

Ortwin Freyermuth also has something to say: "The biggest difference between the Director's Cut" and the 1981 version is probably the fact that the sailor's dreams of home, the unfathomable fear they had to put up with, and the immense strain in the action scenes are all now extremely palpable. This version brings to bear the core subject of the film – the inhumanity of war – more strongly in every respect.“