International Writers Magazine: Review
The story takes us
from a schoolroom, where a teacher stirs his class into enlisting for
the German army to the front, where the boys and their
natural leader Paul Bäumer (Lew Ayres) meet older, more experienced
soldiers and their leader, Stanislaus Katczinsky (Louis Wolheim)
to the trenches, where the main scenes of the film take place.
Quiet On The Western Front (1930)
Directed by Lewis Milestone, starring Lew Ayres and Louis Wolheim
Few films can
boast relevance to all eras. All Quiet On The Western Front,
a 1930 screen adaptation of the 1929 novel of the same title by
First World War veteran, Erich Maria Remarque written from
a German perspective is one of these films. Hollywood shines
a light on a war from which its combatants never could escape, in
a deeply affective way.
his gripping wartime tale with an instrument more powerful than
the sword, as a reaction to the horrors he witnessed and endured
first-hand, and, with bluntness and an eye for grim reality, aims
to pull our faces into what the world in 1929 did not want to see.
The adaptation brings these sights and sounds into film, bombarding
our senses with scenes that deal frankly with all the themes of
war, which still could shock even todays audience.
Notable moments include a ten-minute battle sequence, in which fantastic
direction has the camera sweeping across a desolate plain as wave after
wave of French troops are mown down by machine-guns. Frequent changes
in camera angles and placement give heighten the number of already innumerable
men charging into death. Another scene has the boots of a dead man passed
around three times, the best boots. The camera focus on these boots and
not the man who happens to be wearing them, signify a terrible fact: that
in war, leather boots last longer than their wearers.
The diagetic sound is amazing, and impressive even by todays standards
the explosions and the guns and screaming whistles of shells put
you right in the trenches with the men, feeling terrified for them, but
not so much that you can fully comprehend what might be going on in their
heads. When people say, "I cant begin to imagine what those
men were feeling", I can tell you now that this film all but takes
you into the mens heads. If we fully understood, we might adopt
a seen-it-all-before attitude, and this is why it is good to stay somewhat
in the dark; the film does not force-feed you, and for this reason, the
empathy it arouses in you leaves a lingering reflection. Even the special
effects, the visuals of exploding shells and dirt flying all around, rip
open your mind just as they rip open the ground.
With Rememberance Day been and gone once again, the relevance of All
Quiet On The Western Front is as important today as it was back in
1930. There is a duty to remember the dead, and the survivors, but this
deep scar in the world, the First World War, should have taught our people
to steer clear from inglorious wars. Since then, there hasnt been
a single day of peace, there is always some conflict going on somewhere.
Each Rememberance Day has to take in more casualties of war, those of
World War Two, Malaya, Korea, Vietnam, the Falklands, Iraq, Afghanistan
the dead, and those still alive being tormented by their experiences.
The film is anti-war without a doubt. In the final scene a hand reaches
for a butterfly, an allegory of trying to attain peace, which, cynically
is literally shot dead. This is more affective and just as raw as a scene
of brutal hand-to-hand combat in a trench. A call for pacifism never ran
so starkly and so truly.
© Russell Thomas November 2007
Russ is studying Creative Writing at the University of Portsmouth
Very Long Engagement
Dir Jean Pierre Jeunot
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