All Quiet on the Western Front is a 1930 war film based on the Erich Maria Remarque novel of the same name. It was directed by Lewis Milestone, and stars Louis Wolheim, Lew Ayres, John Wray, Arnold Lucy and Ben Alexander.
All Quiet on the Western Front is considered a realistic and harrowing account of warfare in World War I, and was named #54 on the AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies. However, it fell out of the top 100 in the AFI's 2007 revision. In June 2008, AFI revealed its 10 Top 10—the best ten films in ten "classic" American film genres—after polling over 1,500 people from the creative community. All Quiet on the Western Front was acknowledged as the seventh best film in the epic genre. In 1990, this film was selected and preserved by the United States Library of Congress' National Film Registry as being deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." The film won the Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Director.
This acclaimed antiwar film from the First World War is told from the German perspective. It shows the effects of that war on the individual soldier, describing the horror of trench warfare and the drawbacks of unquestioning patriotism.
All Quiet on the Western Front may be the definitive anti-war film, not for the Great War alone, but all wars. It was the most powerful statement about WWI by the generation that fought it. Andrew Kelly writes in Cinema and the Great War: "No war was as violent, pointless and miserable as the First World War. With 8 1/2 million dead and 20 million injured it was a disaster unparalleled in human history. There was nothing great about the Great War, except the scale of despair and destruction." This film was so controversial that a tangle of different versions existed from the effort to make its uncompromising message palatable to the widest possible audience. The version shown at the North Carolina Museum of Art is the Library of Congress restoration, printed from the original camera negative of the American release, with a few additions from British and French prints.
To begin with, All Quiet... was made in both silent and sound versions, since not every theater had adopted the new technology by 1930. The LOC labored to restore the original soundtrack, removing distracting layers of music and sound effects added over the years. The original track attempted to recreate, as closely as possible, being in a war zone. The experience is so intense, two older couples walked out of the NCMA screening after the first bombardment. The 1934 re-release was 90 minutes long, 45 minutes shorter than the original. A 1939 release added an extra reel of news footage at the beginning and end, with a narrator decrying the rise of Nazism. In 1950, there was a Cold War version, with swing music added at the end. In 1984 a dubbed reconstruction aired on West German television. One of the prints used in that restoration was from the personal collection of Joseph Goebbels, who had denounced the film at the premiere and burned Remarque's novel. Ironically, All Quiet...'s greatest enemy had contributed to its preservation.
All Quiet on The Western Front
By Erich Maria Remarque
translated from the German by A. W. Wheen
Boston : Little, Brown, & Company, 1929
There is no glory in Remarque's war; it is a savage force sacrificing men and boys to a patriotic ideal. In Germany, the objections to it were more complex, since a common soldier hero ran contrary to the glorious rhetoric of novels written by officers. Paul Baumer becomes disgusted with a military world where "We learned that a bright button is weightier than four volumes of Schopenhauer." The book was criticized by the right for its debunking of the military, and by the left because the author fought in the war, rather than merely denouncing it.
All Quiet... was censored and banned in many countries. The French did not like aspersions cast upon the virtue of its women. Germans objected particularly to the character of Himmelstross, who becomes a sadistic Army-sanctioned martinet, and to the discussion amongst the soldiers about the causes of war. Germany was the 2nd biggest European market for American films in 1930, and Universal wanted to make a cut that would be acceptable there, partly because it was the homeland of Universal's founder, Carl Laemmle. But the Nazis disrupted the premiere, Joseph Goebbels made a speech denouncing it, mice, stink bombs and sneezing powder were released in the theater and outside, the SS instigated a riot. The Nazi paper called it "A Jewish lie" and "a hate film slandering the German soldier." The film was banned inside Germany, but the German language version played to full houses just over the border, and special trains and buses transported the audience to theaters in Switzerland, France and the Netherlands. In Poland, the ending was cut. All Quiet... was banned in Italy and did not play there until 1956. It was banned in Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, and New Zealand. It finally played Australia with severe cuts. The film was not seen in Germany again until 1952.
• Director: Lewis Milestone
• Genre: War
• Movie Type: War Drama, Anti-War Film
• Themes: Military Life, Dying Young, Life Under Occupation
• Main Cast: Lew Ayres, Louis Wolheim, John Wray, Raymond Griffith, George "Slim" Summerville
• Release Year: 1930
One of the most powerful anti-war statements ever put on film, this gut-wrenching story concerns a group of friends who join the Army during World War I and are assigned to the Western Front, where their fiery patriotism is quickly turned to horror and misery by the harsh realities of combat. Director Lewis Milestone pioneered the use of the sweeping crane shot to capture a ghastly battlefield panorama of death and mud, and the cast, led by Lew Ayres, is terrific. It's hard to pick a favorite scene, but the finale, as Ayres stretches from his trench to catch a butterfly, is one of the most devastating sequences of the decade. The film won Oscars for Best Picture and for Milestone's direction -- and trivia buffs should note that the actors were coached by future luminary George Cukor, while Ayres became a conscientious objector in World War II. The Road Back (1937) followed, and the film was remade for television in 1979.
(Robert Firsching, All Movie Guide)
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.
The Silent Film Still Archive
The Silent Film Still Archive
Paul stabs the French soldier
The Silent Film Still Archive
The film cost Universal Productions $1,200,000 which is a tidy sum of money for being created in the 1930s (Wikipedia). It cost that much because of how much immense detail they put into the storyline, dialog, and their actors. It is hard to fully appreciate or understand everything that is contained in the film because it can seem that the film is outdated. The best approach when watching the film is to have an open-mind and an imagination as if you are watching the film at its sneak preview in 1930. This way you will be able to have a full appreciation and understand of the movie's message and a deep understand of what people perceived war to be during that time. Surprisingly it is nearly the same as war in the 21st century with the exception of our many technological advances. Their investment was a wise one considering the fact that if we talk about the film this much then you have to consider how popular it was when it was made and the years directly following its debut.
Shockingly the directors and production team barred no details from making their way inside the film. There are many hospital scenes in the movie as well as a few deaths from fighting. Some scenes suggest amputations taking place which make you cringe and squirm right in your seat. Many scenes also show how horrendous the trench fighting really was with the constant sounds of machine gun shells hitting the ground and explosions of torpedoes that did not discriminate against any race on the battlefield. If anyone thinks war is a fun and exciting activity to participate in they may very well form second thoughts after watching this film. (Which is also what the film's meaning of production is all about; it was produced to contain an anti-war message.)
The film makers were still able to tie in comedy with the action and drama pieces of the film. The scene that depicts the most comedy is when three German soldiers swim across the river to the French shore while carrying bread and sausages to three French farm girls. It also shows that soldiers in war are just like everyday people in our World and want to have fun like everyone else. It shows that if they never got a break from the daily routine of war than they may have been driven legally insane! (Many soldiers that survived the war were perceived to be shocked by the war and lives were forever ruined by their experiences.) At the end of the film Baumer is reaching for a butterfly with his left hand. When he is shot a second or two later, they show his right hand! Whether or not this was an intended twist for the film's conclusion, it is something that makes you remember the film and keeps it in your mind even after watching it just once. Also little quirks like this are what makes people remember the film, which also ensures that they stick the important details of war in their mind as well.
(Associated Content, Inc.)
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