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>
Still one of the most worthwhile films about the hard realities of war, "All Quiet On The Western Front" has numerous memorable images and thoughtful moments. Too many war dramas, regardless of their perspective, resort to distortions of history and overblown characters that make them convincing only to those who watch uncritically. This one works nicely by keeping the characters low-key and by, for the most part, allowing the events and situations to speak for themselves. It's not perfect in this respect, and it is perhaps a movie more to be respected than enjoyed, but it has many notable strengths.
The characters, most of them young soldiers, are played very simply, even plainly, but this is by no means a weakness - rather, it allows the movie to show what war is like for real soldiers rather than for idealized or stereotyped characters. The two most important characters are developed more fully, and are played well. Louis Wolheim's resourceful 'Kat' is the liveliest of the soldiers, and as Paul, Lew Ayres is quite understated but very believable. His character is well-chosen as the focal point of most of the movie.
The close-fighting nature of World War I particularly lends itself to this kind of movie, and the atmosphere is convincing and detailed. The contrast with the civilian scenes is also set up well, although the civilian scenes sometimes seem slightly less convincing. The overall effect is a movie that, while you probably wouldn't call it exciting or fun, is one you won't forget.
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