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Wooden Crosses (1932)
"Les croix de bois" (original title)

 -  Drama | War  -  17 March 1932 (France)
7.7
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Ratings: 7.7/10 from 642 users  
Reviews: 15 user | 11 critic

The young and patriotic student Demachy joins the French army in 1914 to defend his country. But he and his comrades soon experience the terrifying, endless trench war in Champagne, where ... See full summary »

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Title: Wooden Crosses (1932)

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
Adjudant Gilbert Demachy
Gabriel Gabrio ...
Sulphart
...
Caporal Breval
Raymond Aimos ...
Soldat Fouillard (as Aimos)
...
Soldat Vieublé (as Artaud A.)
Paul Azaïs ...
Soldat Broucke
René Bergeron ...
Soldat Hamel (as Bergeron)
Raymond Cordy ...
Soldat Vairon (as R. Cordy)
Marcel Delaître ...
Sergent Berthier (as Delaitre)
Jean Galland ...
Capitaine Cruchet (as Galland)
Pierre Labry ...
Soldat Bouffioux, le cuistot (as Labry Pierre)
Geo Laby ...
Soldat Belin (as Laby Géo)
René Montis ...
Lieutenant Morache (as Montis)
Jean-François Martial ...
Soldat Lemoine (as J.F. Martial)
Marc Valbel ...
Maroux (as Valbel)
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Storyline

The young and patriotic student Demachy joins the French army in 1914 to defend his country. But he and his comrades soon experience the terrifying, endless trench war in Champagne, where more and more wooden crosses have to be erected for this cannon fodder. Written by fa404748 (Gent, Belgium)

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama | War

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Details

Country:

Language:

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Release Date:

17 March 1932 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Hölzerne Kreuze  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(RCA Photophone)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Featured in The World Moves On (1934) See more »

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User Reviews

 
The best forgotten classic I've ever seen
4 September 2007 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Comments on this film are bound to centre around comparisons to All Quiet On the Western Front - reasonably enough, since Wooden Crosses was specifically made as a rival to that film. It isn't as engrossing as Milestone's classic, perhaps because it never really characterises the soldiers strongly enough, and also because it lacks the variety of incident which makes All Quiet so entertaining despite its grim subject matter and episodic structure.

But both these flaws are also strengths: Bernard's skill in conveying the de-humanising effects of war, as well as the sheer repetitious tedium of the ordinary soldier's experience, lend to his film a bitterness and realism which its - occasionally naive - American predecessor lacked. There are one or two scenes in this film so bitter and horrifying that no war film matched them until at least the 1950s.

For this reason, the film may find more sympathy with today's audiences, who - after Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket, The Thin Red Line, Jarhead etc - expect a war film to immerse them in sheer violent futility for two hours, and are likely to regard lack of incident as a mark of authenticity.

This film is nothing if not authentic (the cast was made up entirely of war veterans), and the documentary realism of the battle scenes was a real shock to me. Complaints that, unlike most war films, it makes no reference to the wider context of the war, are understandable...but I think they miss the point. The film is indeed a violent mess: what else must it have felt like for the men in the trenches? Wooden Crosses faithfully plays out Lew Ayres' famous speech from All Quiet (maybe paraphrasing here): 'We live in the trenches and we fight. We try not to get killed. That's all.'

I thought I already knew how inventive and daring early '30s film-makers were, but just on the strength of this film (haven't watched Les Miserables yet...) Bernard deserves to stand with the best of them - Lang, Milestone, Vidor, Eisenstein. The lyrical beauty of so many of the images in Wooden Crosses, and the intense horror of some others, left me gaping in disbelief at the screen, and will always stay with me. Perhaps because it's 76 years old, and because it's such an unsung pioneer, this film makes me revert to clichés and superlatives. But it really is one of the very best war films ever made.


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