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What I Did With My Weekend

by Harry Hamilton

Das Boot: Nothing to do with footwear

As time goes by I may feel brave enough to explain exactly why, but for now I'll just say that, resisting midsummer's invitation to go forth and make merry, I opted to stay in this weekend. And watch a video.

I settled for Das Boot. Partly because it was three quid, partly because someone had recommended it to me, and partly because I mentally inserted an apostrophe into Da's and took it for a folky tale about an old man and his shoe. That isn’t a mechanism for a cheap gag: I really did think this. I quickly found that (on actually reading the back when I got home), as any other fool knows, it’s about a submarine. Was I disappointed? Well, yes. I was looking forward to seeing how an old fella whose sole ally is a sorry-looking Doc Marten would have fared against... whatever the film makers would have thrown at him. Evil developers, I suppose. Or Manolo Blahnik, sworn enemy of bovver boots everywhere.

What Das Boot does have is lots of shonky special effects, which touched a wobbly-set nostalgia button somewhere inside of me. Depth charges look like baked bean cans bursting into flames. The sea, like the psychedelic skies in Flash Gordon, is always red or bright green. Maybe they colour-coded it to denote whose seas the sub had strayed into: red for, er, Russia…and green for… Greenland. They were in the war right? It was a World War after all.

The film is dubbed from the original German, ostensibly into English, except for one ginger-haired character who appeared to have taken elocution lessons from the Tazmanian Devil. The captain, meanwhile, struggled with being translated badly. "TIGHTEN IT UP," he yelled at one point when the sub began taking on water, the title of a song by Bobby Brown's first group, New Edition. What he meant by this I'm not entirely certain, but if you're going to go down with the ship you may as well do it screaming the name of a little known early 1980s R'n'B number. Any other way would be undignified.

The dubbing meant I didn’t catch parts of the film, and quite often I found myself not knowing exactly what was going on. I admit that my housemate and I talking over it probably didn't help the situation. Talking in films I do not condone, but I don't condone ignorance either, so I was in a moral quandary. Films don’t notice if you ignore them. Live, flesh and blood humans do, but responding is also textbook enabling behaviour. Once you talk back you’re implicitly giving your permission to talk whenever.

This sort of chatter, had we been part of the crew of U-96, would probably have got us dragged before the captain and summarily shot. I say this because the sub's chief method of avoiding the enemy seemed to be staying still and being very, very quiet. That said, they do burst into It's A Long Way To Tipperary at one point. Perhaps after several days keeping shtum they just can't help themselves. Or, like Trappist monks, they get one day off every year to shout their heads off.

Anyway. One positive of the chit-chat: we decided on a remake of the film to bring it to a hip young audience. Called Das Booty, it focuses on a group of female Kriegsmarines who get their 'ass' stolen (it's like Austin Powers' mojo) and have to go to Davey Jones' locker to get it back. We're currently looking for funders so, if you want to contribute to the big sleeper hit of 2012, please get in touch.

Harry Hamilton is new to Mercy. Keep your eyes peeled for more posts in the coming weeks.