Friday, July 31, 2015

All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)

Today's film is All Quiet on the Western Front.  What? Two war films in a row?  Well, yesterday's film was from the French point of view, and today's film is from the German point of view.

The movie focuses on a class of high school boys, who are egged on by their teacher to join the war effort as soldiers to defend the Fatherland, Germany.  The boys all join and look forward to being soldiers.  One of their leaders also happened to be their mailman so no one takes him seriously.

Then, we get into the actual warfare, and the boys realize that with all the talk about how great it is to defend the Fatherland, no one said it was terrifying and filled with explosions.  People are losing limbs left and right, and other people get blown to pieces right before their eyes.  None of this was done for just shock value, it's meant to show us that this is what really happens during war.  The film gives us time to get to the know each of the soldiers, so it's really sad to see each one of them die.

There's also a discussion of how WWI got started in the first place.  I always get surprised when I see a motorcycle or truck in these films, but I have to remind myself that this was between 1914 and 1918, not the 19th century.  But I think I know the reason why.  I live in the South, and history here is taught war-by-war.  We spend a great deal of time learning about the Civil War, and then immediately jump into WWI next.  Civil War ended in 1865 and WWI started in 1914.  That's 49 years!  What happened in between those years? I don't know!  They don't even discuss how it happened, they just mention a quick blurb about it before jumping into WWII, which was started in 1939, which again is 25 years we miss.  Man, schools are shit.  I do know that Archduke Franz Ferdinand was murdered after dropping his album "You could have it so much better" and this made all the countries in Europe mad and they started shooting each other.  Now we have WWI.

The German soldiers in the movie also question why they were sent to destroy the French and English.  One of them says it's because one country insults another.  Also, the manufacturers get rich, and every good emperor needs at least one war.  One soldier, named Albert, says "I think it's more a kind of fever. Nobody wants it in particular, and then all at once, there it is. We didn't want it. The English didn't want it. And here we are fighting".

One thing to note that even though these are German soldiers, they speak English were generic (non-regional) American accents.  This is done so the audience can emphasize with the characters.  Germany was seen as our enemy back then, but they're not the "bad guys".  Even the French soldiers aren't the bad guys. One of the high school boys kills a Frenchmen while stuck in a hole and feels so bad about it afterwards (even though the dead guy totally blinks).

One of the boys, Paul, goes back to the high school while on leave, and the same teacher tells him to encourage the new, younger class to fight too.  Paul realizes that he can't say anything positive or heroic about being there, so he wants to go back to his friends.  Everybody ends up dying.  Imperial Germany lost over 2 million people in real life.  This is a great anti-war film because it shows an honest look at the brutality of warfare and wonders what the point of all the violence is.  I will give it a 9/10.


  1. I agree with you completely on this one. It is a great anti war movie exactly because it poits out the pointlessness of it. Most wars are pointless, but WWI more than most and this movie got that exactly right. It is also technically a marvel with you think of the year is from. Hey, they just invented sound movies and already you got a full scale outdoor war movie. Impressive.

    1. Thank you, I didn't realize how old this film was! This makes it even better because they must have put so much work into it.

  2. Your last two films reviewed represent two of the very best war films ever made, in my opinion. Both of them should be shown to any and all war hawks.