Das Boot

Klaus Doldinger

" the use of score in each version of Das Boot is open to debate. "

Written by Joep de Bruijn - Review of the regular release

Das Boot offers an impressive insight in the claustrophobic world of the crew of an U-Boat during World War II. The film is brilliantly directed, features a strong supporting cast, cinematography and sound design plays such an existential part. While it is a masterpiece, there is no definite version, as both the original theatrical, mini-series and Director’s Cut each have their own flaws. The score by Klaus Doldinger is similarly unsatisfying in each version of Das Boot. In the making of the Director’s Cut, the creators discovered the original soundtrack tapes had melted, which meant they had to remixed and reformat everything; a huge technical and artistic undertaking, leading to enormous improvements in sound quality.

Doldinger made artistic decisions on establishing the sound of the score, which consisted of small orchestral layers (strings, brass, timpani), panflute and classical guitar, mixed with synthesizer elements. At times, the sparse number of orchestral musicians create a rather hollow sound, but in the overall hybrid mixture with the synthesizers, it is decent enough. Even though the score has not aged well, the overall sound has never bothered me, which is rather remarkable since Das Boot is set during WO II.

The main theme is such a wonderful composition, which does not undergo a lot of changes and feels like a rather monotonous piece, but its memorable quality forgives this entirely. It is an encompassing theme, matching all heroic and dramatic requirements for the film. Doldinger really managed to write something that many German people still regard as (one of) the best themes from German cinema, while also enduring its popularity with many others who have experienced Das Boot. Doldinger’ sub-theme, performed by the classic guitar, has a romantic and nostalgic feeling, and is also rather monotonous in use.

While the general score is more or less functional, and the thematic material strong, the use of score in each version of Das Boot is open to debate. I have always felt the sounds of a sonar (also inegrated in the music), cracking of the boat and every other bit of sound plays such a quintessential role in creating atmosphere, tension and claustrophobia. Music simply cannot establish this, even though Doldinger does underline this sense slightly, it remains no match at all.

The Director’s Cut adds new music in places that didn't had and needed music in the theatrical cut. It is best illustrated in some of the deepwater bombing sequences, that moderately adds to the tension, but it’s in such huge contrast to the original approach with powerful use of sound effects only. The (small) variations on the memorable main theme, and its sub-theme for classic guitar, are the only pieces of scores that are just too good to be missed anywhere. Then again, small cracks begin to surface regarding the overuse of the main theme in the mini-series.

The original WEA release was hugely popular and those who loved the 38 minutes experience, may have difficulties to fully embrace the new 1997 score release of the Director’s Cut. It includes improved sound and more music, while unfortunately adding sound effects and dialogue in the additional tracks. Personally, I have never been able to enjoy any of the releases fullly, but have grown fond of some of the music I found far less interesting and effective in context.

Tracklist original release
1. Anfang (01:05)
2. Das Boot (03:40)
3. Appell (00:51)
4. U 96 (02:30)
5. Auslaufen (01:06)
6. Erinnerung (02:31)
7. Konvoi (03:17)
8. Angriff (02:06)
9. Heimkehr (02:28)
Seite 1 (1-9)/Seite 2 (10-18)
10. Das Boot (Single -Version) (03:12)
11. Bedrohung (01:15)
12. Erinnerung (01:07)
13. Gibraltar (02:56)
14. Warten (01:09)
15. Eingeschlossen (02:21)
16. Rettung (02:13)
17. Ruckzug (01:22)
18. Ende (03:21)

Total Duration: 00:38:30

Tracklist Director's Cut release
1. Anfang (01:07)
2. Titel (03:46)
3. Appell (00:53)
4. U 96 (02:30)
5. Auslaufen (01:12)
6. Erinnerung (02:34)
7. Konvoi (04:17)
8. Angriff (02:10)
9. Inferno (00:51)
10. Heimkehr (02:31)
11. Bedrohung (02:34)
12. Erinnerung (01:10)
13. Gibraltar (04:21)
14. Warten (01:11)
15. Absinken (01:36)
16. Auf Grund (01:17)
17. Eingeschlossen (02:23)
18. Rettung (02:14)
19. Rückzug (01:38)
20. Ende (03:23)
21. Muss i denn (01:25)
komponiert von PD
22. Mon Gars (02:34)
gesungen von Rita Cadillac - Text von France Briffaut
23. Schwarze Augen (02:36)
komponiert von PD
24. Das Boot (03:17)
25. Konvoi (04:31)
mit Geräuschen und Dialogen
26. Angriff (03:42)
mit Geräuschen und Dialogen
27. Gibraltar (04:22)
mit Geräuschen und Dialogen
28. Absinken / Eingeschlossen (02:58)
mit Geräuschen und Dialogen
29. Rettung (03:03)
mit Geräuschen und Dialogen
30. Rückzug / Heimkehr (02:

Total Duration: 01:14:19
(click to rate this score)  
(total of 12 votes - average 4/5)

Released by

WEA Records (regular release 1982)