Saturday, January 7, 2023

All Quiet on the Western Front


World War I was one of the most pointless and deadliest wars in history.  It is hard to understand why these countries were at war with each other.  Different nations had become more militaristic, and imperialist.  Because of mutual defense packs, the assassination of Arch-Duke Ferdinand set off a chain of events that led to World War.  As one country was attacked, others felt compelled to join in.

Most of the war was spent in the trenches, with millions dying in pointless charges getting mowed down by machine gun fire while making no real advancement.  The battle lines changed very little.

All Quiet on the Western Front makes no pretense of nobleness nor honor in people trying to kill each other.  Soldiers aren't seen as brave men fighting for a worthy cause.  These young men, teenagers who are practically boys, are sent charging into their likely destruction.  And for what purpose?  Mostly patriotism, but the boys on both sides aren't any different than their enemy.  They are fighting not for a cause, but because they are told that they must do so.

The movie starts with German youth Paul Bäumer patriotically signing up for military service with some of his classmates.  They are told that they will be victorious and march into Paris.  However, any notion of glory quickly disappears as soon as they arrive at the front.  One of the classmates is killed in the first few minutes.

The best battle scene involves the soldiers being attacked by multiple enemy tanks, which looks like Hell on Earth.

The movie is so realistic that it feels almost like watching a documentary.  It doesn't shy away from the horrors of war.  Many people likely will be put off by the film.  As such, it is more of an experience than it is entertainment.  After watching the movie it would be hard to watch other war movies in a positive light.

The film is based on a 1928 German anti-war novel, that would later be banned by the Nazis because it made war look less than glorious.  There were previous movie adaptations in 1930 and 1979, both of which were critically acclaimed.

Rating:  B+.

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