Wolfgang Petersen – The life of “Das Boot” and the movie

a meal.
The cult film “Das Boot” was the greatest work of Wolfgang Petersen. The director got a Hollywood entry ticket. He died there at the age of 81.

Petersen has repeatedly emphasized in interviews that he always dreamed of making films there. For several decades he was one of the most sought-after directors of the Dream Factory and a guarantor of box office success. He died last Friday at the age of 81 in the arms of his wife, Maria. Petersen had pancreatic cancer.

He was born in 1941 to the son of a naval officer in the East Frisian city of Emden, where he grew up in abject poverty in the barracks. He belonged to the generation of directors of the “new German film”, but he never wanted to be a film director like Wim Wenders or Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Although Petersen studied from 1966 to 1969 at the newly founded DFFB, the Berlin Academy of Film and Television, his graduation film already demonstrated his talent for storytelling and his preference for popular genres. I Will Kill You, Wolf (1970) is a crime thriller: a woman kills her lover.

GCSE crime scene with Nastasja Kinski

This job offered him an offer to direct a movie for what was then a new crime TV series that became famous in its early days for its well-thought-out social material: “Tatort”. Petersen filmed a total of six “Tatorte” after his debut “Blechschaden” with NDR Commissioner Klaus Schwarzkopf, and his latest film “Reifezeugnis” (1976/77) became the most famous – with record-breaking audiences, a milestone in the genre. Today: In this psychological drama, the girl plays a student who loves her teacher and kills a classmate because he is blackmailing her.

Petersen’s home in the 1970s was television, which at the time was very open to experimentation and education. He filmed socially critical television plays for WDR, which caused debates. With 1973’s “Smog”, he blended fiction and documentation into a slick, hazy environmental disaster story so thoroughly that WDR faded into noting that it was a fictional TV show when it aired. The Consequence (1978) was perhaps the first gay love story on German screens – and the Bayerischer Rundfunk story faded immediately when it aired.




“The Boat” and Jürgen Prochnow

Jürgen Prochnow played the main role in “The Consequence”, and with this actor Petersen also realized the most expensive German film production to date: “Das Boot”. It was a disappointing war movie, patrolling a German U-boat in the year of war 1941. The film derives its appeal from the alternation of boring lanes aboard the ship and the hustle and bustle of battles, with which Petersen photographer Jost Vacano had a portable camera darted through the boat aisles and bulkheads.


After “Boot”, Petersen completed two major international projects filmed in English in the Bavarian studios, “The Never-Ending Story” (1984) based on Michael Indy’s novel and “The Enemy Mine” (1985). Then he moved to the United States.

“In the Line of Fire” with Clint Eastwood

His second film there, In the Line of Fire (1993), was an American masterpiece. Clint Eastwood plays an elderly bodyguard who fails to protect John F. Kennedy and must now thwart the assassination of the current president by a highly intelligent and diseased killer. “Second Chance” is a psychological duel between two men, two broken characters, very exciting and yet with a great sense of the characters’ inner world.

At least since his virus thriller Outbreak (1995), Petersen has been seen as a big-budget film specialist, spoiled by success, knowing how to combine work with coherent psychology. He proved this with “Airforce One” (1997), “The Tempest” (2000) and “Troy” (2004). However, his film Poseidon (2006), a remake of the shipwreck movie The Poseidon Inferno, failed.

“Four Against the Bank” with Schweiger, Weigofer, Levers and Herbig

Meanwhile, the world of cinema has changed: major American studios have focused on blockbuster superhero films and franchises, such as the “Star Wars” saga. In Germany, Petersen finally released another remake in 2016, this time based on his own model: the fraudulent comedy “Four Against the Bank,” in which the star director hired the cast: Til Schweiger, Matthias Schweigover, Jan Josef Levers and Michael . “Bully” Herbig.


More articles from this category can be found here: Culture


Leave a Comment