Frankfurt School is the current designation for a group of individuals who shared similar points of view towards art. It dates from the second half of the last century. The School comes along with the Marxist Theories which are genneraly based on the culture’s dependence on human beings’ material historical conditions. This means that they cannot be separated and the second influences the first. That is why realism is considered the only acceptable form and modernism is rejected. The Frankfurt School is also influenced by thinkers such as Max Weber and Sigmund Freud. The main figures of the school were Theodor Adorno, Walter Benjamin and Max Horkheimer.
The Frankfurt School created and developed the “Critical Theory”, for which it is known. The theory puts art in a high place, by saying that it is the only way we have to resist the totalitarian society.
Art does not have a direct contact with the reality. They are different things and this distinction is what makes art so special. This goes against the Marxist Theories (in genneral) and particularly against Georg Lukács who defended that art does not only reflect the simple surface of reality but also what is within it, what is hidden.
The movie The Tin Drum can be said to posess certain elements as to look a fairy tail. It contains regular characteristics of the medium that is cinema: slapstick comedy, tragicomedy, melodrama, mockheroic drama... This creates a distance between the film and the reality it represents. Ehat helps also to keep the this distance ia that we are seeing the story always from the point of view of a three-year-old child. This is reflected in low angles, knee-shots and in a representation of the adults’ world that can be unprecise: there is nothing good, just hypocrisy, exploitation, absurdity, disgust.
A work of art is not a “mirror”, a reflection on the social system; it cannot be. It is just the production of an indirect reflexion. As Theodor Adorno said: “Art is the negative knowledge of the actual world.” This can be put in practise when art is not a critical work, accusing the system directly and creating polemic. Art should instead be subtle and expressing reality in a disguised way. Like this, people would be less influenced to change their old ideas for others just because these are being transmited in a work of art, in an easy and consumable way.
The Tin Drum, as it was said before, seems far form reality but it is because it is reflecting it less in the open. The background of the story is the Nazi invasion of Polland and the director never forgets this part of the movie. He shows panoramic shots of landscapes and of the city where the action goes on. Even in the opening sequence, we see a soldier hiding under a women’s skirt. We can see that there are no direct critics to Nazism, however “under the lines” we have Oskar Matzerath condemning them, and deciding not to become and adult, not to grouw anymore because of all the evil he sees in this, what represents a strong criticism.
The comercialization of the art that was felt in the time of the Frankfurt School, was believed to create a sensation on the public that should not exist. According to the school, the receptors of art started to lose the capacity of seeing/listening/reading the work of art as an unity, as a whole. In this way, art was broke in pieces: fragmented, and this fragments were all that people could reach. The authors were then influenced into creating just fragments also instead of whole works of art. This can be observed in the divisions of the story, scenes, shots, passing from one action to the other; and also in some oposed characteristic that the film contains, for example, epic and small-scale, foreground and background, fantasy and realism. Besides, the public just sees fragments of the personality of the characters.
Finnally, the Frankfurt School defended that the development of the new technologies and, consequently, of the new means of communication, as the cinema, influenced art, in the way that it took its uniqueness because now we can reproduce art easily and whenever we want. The artist, as a result, also starts to produce his works already with the intention of reprodution, adapting the art to the demands of reproducibility.
Of course, we have to say that The Tin Drum is not the only film where we can see this, but we can give an example. When a movie is intended to be successful and so reproduced over and over, there are certain things that one must be aware of. One of them is the duration of it. It cannot be too long. In this film there were some scenes cut to serve this purpose. One of them was a sequence where german soldiers fire at a group of nuns that were picking up sheels on a beach; the nuns avoid the bullets by flying into the clouds. The film itself is already a reproduction of the literary work of Günter Grass with the same title.
In conclusion, although The Tin Drum
is not directly related with the Frankfurt School; indirectly, some points have a connection with the school’s arguments. Besides, the school first impulsion was a counter-movement against Nazism an the film subtly expresses itself against this ideology.