German director Wolfgang Petersen died on August 12 at the age of 81 from pancreatic cancer. Nominated for the Oscars for “The boat”, Wolfgang Petersen leaves behind him a rich filmography, made up of feature films most often celebrated by critics, and having met their audience. Some have become real references in their genre, here are five.
“The Boat” (1981)
Adapted from the book Das Boot (The Styx in French) by Lothar-Günther Buchheim, The boat is Wolfgang Petersen’s fourth feature film. Inspired by the professional experience of Lothar-Günther Buchheim, then a journalist aboard a submarine in 1941, the film immerses us under the seas aboard an underwater ship.
The boat follows German submariners sent from La Rochelle to the North Atlantic to sink the Allied fleet. They were 40,000 at the start, only 10,000 will remain. For almost three hours, the spectator lets himself be carried away by the rhythm of the story, divided between calm moments and peaks of tension. With finesse, Wolfgang Petersen suggests the violence of war without ever showing it. The metallic sound of interiors and explosions are enough to overwhelm us.
The boatconsidered one of the best submarine films ever made, earned Wolfgang Petersen two Oscar nominations for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay.
“The Neverending Story” (1984)
Released in 1984, The never-ending story is adapted from the first half of a children’s novel by Michael Ende. Bastien, a ten-year-old kid with a passion for adventure novels, finds refuge in a bookstore after three boys extort him and put him in the trash. Once he expressed his love for reading, the bookseller tells him about the book. The never-ending story. The boy steals it and isolates himself in the attic of his school to dive into this marvelous story. There he will come across creatures, some more marvelous than the others, reminiscent of the bestiary universe of Lewis Carroll.
Drawing on the beginnings of special effects, Wolfgang Petersen succeeds in blurring the line between reality and fiction. The never-ending story was considered at the time to be the most expensive film ever produced in Germany. This film will fascinate, and also frighten at times, an entire generation. And beyond, since recently the song of the credits was taken up in the last season of the event series Stranger Things.
“In the Line of Sight”
Surely one of the heavyweights of the cinematography of the German filmmaker. This feature film with political intrigue, punctuated by the soundtrack by Ennio Morricone, is based on a high-flying cast with Clint Eastwood in the role of a former American secret agent in charge of protecting the President of the United States, inspired by the story of secret agent Clinton J. Hill. Opposite him, Mitch Leary, an ex-CIA killer camped by an extraordinary John Malkovitch. Consumed by remorse, Frank Horrigan cannot forgive himself for not having succeeded in thwarting the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963. 27 years later, when Mitch Leary decides to attack the new president, secret agent Frank Horrigan vows not to make the same mistake again. The two opponents will then engage in a real manhunt.
If the precise scenario follows – brilliantly – the classic structure of an action film with its breathless suspense, the success of the film is largely based on the performance of John Malkovitch in the skin of the cruel psychopath with a thousand and one faces.
“Air Force One”
General Alexander Radek, a dictator in Kazakhstan considered a terrorist, is kidnapped by a Russian-American commando, then placed in prison. Triumphant, US President John Marshall, played by Harrison Ford, stops in Moscow. Welcomed as a hero after capturing the representative of a “murderous regime”, John Marshall officially declares war on terrorism. Accompanied by his wife, daughter and close advisers, John Marshall boards an Air Force One (the presidential plane reserved for American presidents) to return to Washington. But at the same time, six terrorists disguised as journalists board and wait for takeoff to take control of the aircraft. Then begins a breathtaking hostage-taking.
As usual, Wolfgang Petersen brilliantly succeeds in putting into images a story in a closed and cramped place. submariner in The boatthe viewer is here a passenger closest to the action.
How to talk about Wolfgang Petersen without quoting Troy ? In this film, the director returns to an episode inspired by ancient mythology and theIliad of Homer: the Trojan War. Helena, then queen of Sparta, is kidnapped by Paris, prince of Troy. Menelaus, her husband, asks his brother Agamemnon, king of Mycenae, to go to war to take control of Troy in order to save the family honor. While no army has ever succeeded in penetrating the walls of the city, Achille, played by Brad Pitt, could well be the first to achieve this feat.
In this heroic peplum with a five-star cast, the duo of enemies Brad Pitt – Orlando Bloom bursts the screen. Released in 2004 and produced on a budget of $175 million, Troy marks Wolfgang Petersen’s biggest commercial success, grossing $497,409,852 at the box office.