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All Quiet On The Western Front



Released: 21st April 1930

Director: Lewis Milestone

Stars: Louis Wolheim, Lew Ayres

Certificate: PG

Reviewer: William Mcabee

I have always been a big fan of war films ever since seeing Saving Private Ryan. I thought that it was amazing how films could take us back to battles and give us the best look at what really happened. At the same time though do we really understand what it was like? War was more than just battles and fights. There was loss, corruption, and eventually death. That’s what All Quiet On The Western Front is all about. It explores what these men in the trenches really experienced and gives a not so bright vision of World War I. The original book written by a veteran from WWI, this movie came out in 1930, but would it still have the same impact today that it had back then?

All Quiet On The Western Front is about a group of German schoolboys who got caught up in the patriotism of their teacher and decide to sign up for the war. They are excited to be the iron men of Germany and can’t wait to see some action. Slowly and surely, everything they thought about the military is not what they hoped for. Their boot camp is exhausting but things only get worse as the boys get shipped out to see their first action. As the boys see death and horror surround them, their numbers decrease and their emotions run rampant. The film explores their changes in personality because of the war and and lasting effect the fighting has on them.

This film was amazing in my opinion. There was so many things that I loved about it and it seemed to never stop being enjoyable. There were some great

themes explored throughout, which I will get to, and some superb acting from the cast. It is amazing to see a movie from 1930 explore so much pain and negative effects of the war on soldiers. I haven’t seen too many films from before 1950s, but I hope more are like this one.

Director Lewis Milestone was a genius with this picture and knew exactly what Remarque was trying to go for. He starts it off with a great quote that ends with “even though they may have escaped its shells, were destroyed by the war…” setting up the tone for the rest of the film. Then he starts to explore why exactly such young men joined the war. I was glad that he gave audiences this perspective because it is interesting to see how so many young men get swooped up the war recruitment. The opening scene in the classroom is incredible and it was so much fun to watch. There were great close ups, awesome awesome editing that gave you this rising sense of mad nationalism. These kids felt peer pressure, national pressure, and mentor pressure to join up and fight for the Fatherland! I was soon not surprised by these men joining the forces.

One of my favorite parts of the film were the battle scenes because they were shot so well. Milestone was able to give us a true perspective of trench warfare. The sound and editing were successfully able to give the audience member a part of chaos that is war. There were some awesome pans over the trenches and great production value with the explosions and the scale of all the people and landscape. Even before the battle, there was a great build up of tension that even had me nervous about the upcoming battles.

One iconic moment from the movie is when the main character Paul stabs a French soldier and tries to heal him. The two things that I enjoyed taking away from this scene was the great perspective shot of all the soldiers running over Paul. I also enjoyed, its sad but done beautifully, seeing why these men were not fit for war. Paul was never fit for war and is definitely not a killer as seen through this trench.

There were so many great themes explored through this film. Corruption was a huge one that is seen throughout. We see young men with so much potential get killed or psychological messed up. They are no longer boys and have lost their innocence to be replaced with fear and terror. They also explore life after the war when Paul goes back to his home town. Paul has to deal with not fitting in and not being able to deal with normal life. There is a great line when he returns to the battlefield when he admits to his friend that he isn’t made for back home anymore. We also see the amount of guilt that soldiers have to deal with. Paul more than the rest, as he watches his friend die right in front of him and when he finds out the French soldier he killed had a family. Another aspect that I was glad to see shown in a bad light was blind patriotism. Through the classroom scene at the end, we see a different Paul than the one who signed up for the military. As he tries to warn the young men about the horrors of war, all they do is shout “coward!” at him.

The last few scenes in the film add some great depth to this film. As Paul returns back to the battlefield, he realizes the amount and death that surrounds him as the country just keeps pumping in men, not caring about their deaths. The two last shots in my opinion were incredible. In the final scene, Paul sees a butterfly and tries to reach for it, only to be shot by a sniper. These scene indeed is trying to blatantly says that war kills you and there is nothing you can do about it. As it was said at the beginning, even if you survived you felt dead inside (we see this through Paul returning home). The last shot is a juxtaposition of every boy we met in the film over a graveyard, reminding us with their faces of where war has put them, in the grave.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this film! Amazing direction, and some pretty damn impressive editing. It is a great epic war film that also explores some deep psychological issues. For anyone that likes classics or deep emotional war films will highly enjoy it. Take some time to check out All Quiet On The Western Front.


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