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This is an English language film (made in America) adapted from a novel by German author Erich Maria Remarque. The film follows a group of German schoolboys, talked into enlisting at the beginning of World War 1 by their jingoistic teacher. The story is told entirely through the experiences of the young German recruits and highlights the tragedy of war through the eyes of individuals. As the boys witness death and mutilation all around them, any preconceptions about "the enemy" and the "rights and wrongs" of the conflict disappear, leaving them angry and bewildered. This is highlighted in the scene where Paul mortally wounds a French soldier and then weeps bitterly as he fights to save his life while trapped in a shell crater with the body. The film is not about heroism but about drudgery and futility and the gulf between the concept of war and the actuality. Written by
Michele Wilkinson, University of Cambridge Language Centre, <firstname.lastname@example.org>
From the fact it was made in 1930, you could class 'All Quiet on the Western Front' as a war movie museum piece, but Lewis Milestone's film is a seminal piece of anti-war propaganda, focusing on the Great War from the perspective of a group of German soldiers, in particular Paul Baumer (Lew Ayres). Ayres gives a sensitive and powerful performance: by the 2nd World War the actor chose to serve as a medic, where he gained distinction.
Remembered for the sequence with the butterfly at the end in particular, this early talkie manages to set its scene and transmit a powerful message. An involving and clever film which on its recent restoration and cinema re-release has taken on new significance in the 21st century.
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