Saturday, August 14, 2010
1929/1930: All Quiet on the Western Front
There were so many wonderfully put together scenes and sequences. From the very first, incredibly disturbing scene where a teacher is convincing his teenaged students to go out and die for their country, I knew this was going to be a strong, haunting film. I was not remotely disappointed. The boot sequence was especially powerful, as was the shot where the camera moved backwards through a trench as the enemy attacked, clearly portraying the chaos that ensued. The ending gave me chills (see picture): a clip from earlier in the film of the new recruits looking back is superimposed with a shot of a graveyard. The End.
Another very interesting thing about this film was that it was from the Germans' perspective. American audiences were used to thinking of the Germans as enemies and the French and English as allies; in this film the roles are reversed. And yet the horror of war surpasses all nationalities. You don't spend the whole film thinking, "Oh, these are Germans; they're bad guys." They were just men. All of the whimpering, crying, and screaming helped portray them as very human, and extremely relatable. Still, ten years later they never would have made a war film with the Germans as good guys.
I read the book on which this film is based about four years ago, and the main thing I remembered was the Frenchman in the foxhole. A few other parts came back to me as I was watching, but I don't remember it well enough to compare the film to the book. All I can say is that this was a remarkably well-made film about the horrors of war, 68 years before Saving Private Ryan.