Review of All Quiet On The Western Front (1930)

26 Oct

All Quiet On The Western Front (1930) is a war drama film, based on the novel of the same name by Erich Maria Remarque.

Directed by the Russian-American director Lewis Milestone (Ocean’s Eleven (1960), Of Mice And Men (1939)).

Written by Maxwell Anderson (Meet Joe Black (1998), The Wrong Man (1956)) and others.

Starring: Lew Ayres, Lois Wolheim, John Wray, Arnold Lucy and others.

It is mostly due to my own stupidity and ADD, but for like half an hour into the movie I didn’t realize that it’s a movie about German soldiers, so I kept wondering why the hell are these Americans so involved and fighting the French. But if you pay attention from the beginning, it is actually pretty clear and obviously if you don’t pick that up, you are a moron.

A really effective anti-war agenda film, but while I see in what way could the government of Nazi Germany have perceived it as anti-German, since it would have been totally counter-productive, I couldn’t agree that it is actually anti-German, because it doesn’t portrayed them as bad people, just brainwashed by the war propaganda.

And that is the best thing about how it makes the point. It doesn’t matter which side of the trenches has the narrative taken, you could have switched it to any other side of the war. They might have chosen this side because its stance was more radical and so the point is more impactful this way, but it says nothing against the nationality itself. And the characters understand that the enemy soldiers are just the same as them and the real enemy is actually the military bureaucracy, which uses them as pawns.

And one of the best aspects of the movie is definitely how they portray the soldiers being sucked into this thing that is so larger than them. They don’t actually know why exactly they are fighting this war. Also the film excels at showing how shocking are the terrors of war for those young recruits that were totally disillusioned by all the nationalistic propaganda and unprepared to deal with all the horrible physical and emotional traumas they are forced to face, when they finally realize what slogans like „Die for fatherland” mean in reality.

One might think that the age of the movie means that for modern viewers it would seem cheap and the battle scenes fake-looking. But actually the special effects (by that I mean mostly explosions) are very well executed and the film’s age only adds to a feeling of authenticity and gritty realism, which makes sense considering that most of the people working on it had actually if not been involved in the war itself, but at least had been born or grown up during that time. So if you want to see a pretty accurate depiction of World War I, you don’t get much closer than this.

A great performance by Lew Ayres, so it is no wonder he had a pretty long career after this. Lois Wolheim also great in one of the last performances of his life.

I was wondering how hasn’t this received a high-budget huge major Studio remake (not that I think it’s necessary, it’s just that that’s how Hollywood works). Yes, I know about the 1979 TV remake, but I haven’t seen it. And then I found out they are making one, supposedly starring Daniel Radcliffe and I actually think it could work and turn out quite good. Although, I’m not sure of how marketable are WWI dramas, but I guess some big name actors and huge, epic battle scenes  will sell it anyway.

The ending is just brilliant. It’s beautiful and tragic and sad, but in a way uplifting.

An exceptional film, recommended for lovers of the golden age of cinema or war epics or just good movies in general. Essentially bloodless, but graphic in its tone. It might not be technically perfect, but it has a taste to it. And the aftertaste might be even better. Definitely recommended.

"Hey, kids! Want some guns? I'll give you a hand-grenade if I can touch your private parts."

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