Beneath the Waves

Germany: Das Boot

The challenges of filming a tv show about a WW2 U-boat.

Beneath the Waves

By Stefan Roesch

Nearly four decades after Wolfgang Petersen's critically acclaimed movie Das Boot, Munich-based Bavaria Studios has followed up with a thrilling, multi-award winning original tv show.

Executive Producer Moritz Polter gives us some insights into the filming of the series.

Moritz Polter.

Moritz Polter.

Which of the external locations was your favourite and why?

"Filming both seasons of Das Boot was amazing, but my favourite exterior location would have to be the naval bunker at La Pallice, close to La Rochelle in France. I had goosebumps when the U-boat replica was launched into the water. The open water shoot in Malta was another favourite."

The crew at the naval bunker of La Pallice in France.

The crew at the naval bunker of La Pallice in France.

Filming inside the bunker at La Pallice.

Filming inside the bunker at La Pallice.

Filming off the coast of Malta.

Filming off the coast of Malta.

"The first season of Das Boot was shot in the La Rochelle area of France, in the Barrandov Studios in Prague, Munich’s Bavaria Studios, Malta Film Studios, as well as in the open sea. As part of the 105-day shoot, the production filmed on the streets of La Rochelle and Île de Ré to demonstrate the forthcoming resistance and unrest on shore.

The external U-boat, used at La Pallice and off the coast in Malta, took two months to refurbish and weighed an impressive 240 tons. It was originally used in the feature film U-571 with Matthew McConaughey, which we then completely refurbished."

The U-boat as seen in the film U-571.

The U-boat as seen in the film U-571.

"The second season of Das Boot was shot in Prague, Malta, La Rochelle, Liverpool and Manchester. On our website you can also find lots of useful information, including storylines for both seasons and full cast and crew info."

Where did you film the interior of the U-boat?

"The internal U-boat set, based in Prague and brought hydraulically to life via a gimbal, took 15 weeks to build. At 45m it was complete with Control room, Radio room, Torpedo room, Captain’s Bunk, Petty Officer’s Bunk’s, Diesel and Electric engine rooms, Galley, Hydrophone Room, Conning Tower and Captain’s Quarters. Unfortunately, it’s now wrapped up in Barrandov studios in Prague and can't be visited."

If people want to have a look at a real historic U-boat from WW2, where should they go?

"To Laboe close to Kiel in Germany. Opposite the German Naval Memorial is the U-995, a submarine used during World War II, which is a popular tourist attraction."

U-995 is docked on dry land... 

U-995 is docked on dry land... 

...but visitors can access the interior.

...but visitors can access the interior.

Which of the locations used in Season 1 and 2 are accessible to the fans, and which ones would you particularly recommend fans to visit?

"All of the outdoor locations are stunning – from the city of La Rochelle and the beautiful island of Île de Ré, to the city of Manchester and Liverpool’s Formby. And even though our U-Boat from the show is wrapped up in Prague, the U-Boat Wolfgang Petersen from the film Das Boot can be visited at our studio lot at the Bavaria Filmstadt in Munich."

The original U96 interior set from Wolfgang Peterson's movie remains virtually untouched.

The original U96 interior set from Wolfgang Peterson's movie remains virtually untouched.

On that note, how would you compare the show to the original movie?

"Similar to how the Fargo series takes place in the world of the movie of the same name, our series can be classified as a serial and content-related development of Das Boot.

We tell an original story with new characters and two equally weighted plot lines on land and at sea. At the same time, the series is firmly anchored in the world and atmosphere created by Lothar-Günther Buchheim through the motifs used in his novels Das Boot and Die Festung. For example, in Die Festung, Buchheim also addressed the upcoming resistance and the war on land. For the viewer, it is a new, yet familiar world."

In La Rochelle, American expatriate Carla Monroe (Lizzy Caplan) helps the French Resistance fight the Gestapo.

In La Rochelle, American expatriate Carla Monroe (Lizzy Caplan) helps the French Resistance fight the Gestapo.

In Season 2, the story expands to New York where we meet the sleezy German-born lawyer Berger (Thomas Kretschmann). 

In Season 2, the story expands to New York where we meet the sleezy German-born lawyer Berger (Thomas Kretschmann). 

Who is your favourite character in the tv show?

"Margot Bostal, played by Fleur Geffrier, is a very intriguing character who reveals her strength throughout the first series. In Season 2 we wanted to expand the involvement of her character further. I also loved Klaus Steinbacher’s portrayal of Torpedoman’s Mate Josef – he is a force of nature."

On the left: Torpedoman Mate Josef (Klaus Steinbacher).

On the left: Torpedoman Mate Josef (Klaus Steinbacher).

Thank you for your insights Moritz!

Das Boot can be watched on Amazon, Hulu and Sky. In Australia you can find it on SBS and in New Zealand on TVNZ

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