Write a Film review of All Quiet on the Western

Write a Film reappraisal ofAll Quiet on the Western Front( manager. Lewis Milestone, 1930 )

As Whiteclay Chambers and Culbert ( 1996 ) write “More than any other American characteristic movie in the interwar old ages,All Quiet on the Western Front( U.S. 1930 ) came to stand for the image of World War I.” ( Whiteclay Chambers and Culbert, 1996: 13 ) Lewis Milestone’s word picture of the horror and the claustrophobia of the First World German trenches is as impacting today as it must hold in the 1930s when the memories of the events, told in Erich Maria Remarque’s novel of the same name, were still fresh in the public imaginativeness. Post Gulf war, in fact, we could asseverate that many of the implicit in philosophical togss of the movie, particularly those that trade with the grounds and the justifications of war, are possibly more pertinent now than they were over 70 old ages ago.

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All Quiet on the Western Frontis a self-contradictory movie in some ways, directed by an American, of Moldovan extraction ( Walker, 2002 ) and produced by the Hollywood elephantine Universal Studios ( one of their biggest and most serious productions until the sixtiess ) it tells the narrative of a group of idealistic German young persons, encouraged to enlist in the ground forces by their school teacher Herr Meyer ( Edmund Bresse ) . The main supporters, Paul Baumer ( Lew Ayres ) , Leer ( Scott Kolk ) , Albert ( William Bakewell ) and Muller ( Russell Gleason ) embark upon basic preparation ( where they meet the tragi-comic figure of Himmelstoss [ John Wray ] ) and are so sent to the Western Front, where they witness and partake in the horrors of war that leaves all of them maimed, insane or dead.

Part of the paradox of the movie arises out of its word picture ofGerman( as opposed to American or British ) soldiers, a great trade of the dramatis personae, as Thomas Schatz ( 1996 ) inside informations were established Hollywood histrions, commanding non merely star position but star fees ( Louis Wolheim who played Katczinsky, for case received $ 3,500 a hebdomad and John Wray ?1000 ) Despite using reliable German costume and props, no effort is made to mask the actors’ American and British speech patterns. This gives the movie an about cosmopolitan feel, as though we are witnessing a sort of ground forces with no distinguishable political or societal individuality. We could propose that it is the Germanic nationality of the soldiers that allows Milestone to to the full research the subjects of anti-patriotism in the movie, subjects that might non hold been so good received had they been framed around an English or American platoon. The Americanness of the histrions, nevertheless, would certainly hold endeared them to modern-day Anglo-American audiences, leting the humanity of the soldiers to be to the full explored and the humanist message of the original novel to be communicated so successfully.

The self-contradictory nature of the movie, with its assorted sense of national individuality, was reflected in its response throughout the universe. As Curley and Wetta ( 1992 ) item,All Quiet on the Western Frontwas banned in Poland on its release for being pro-German and banned in Germany for being anti-German ( Curley and Wetta 1992: 102 ) in fact, the German-dubbed version of the movie caused such an tumult in Germany that it shifted concentrate off from autochthonal movies for old ages to come ( Kester, 2003: 16 )

The confusion over nationality is suggested in the initial scenes of the movie, particularly those in the schoolroom, where the glorification of war is being discussed by the headmaster and his category of eager pupils. Herr Meyer quotes the line of Latin doctrine that glorifies and aggrandises war “Dulce et decorousness est” . For English and American viewing audiences this would certainly convey to mind the English poet Wilfred Owen’s verse form of the same name that descries the panics and horrors war in much the same manner as the movie and Remarque’s novel will as the narrative unfolds. There is some of the same iconography in Owen’s verse form that we witness subsequently in Arthur Edson’s filming:

“Bent double, like old mendicants under pokes, Knock-kneed, coughing like beldams, we cursed through sludge, Till on the haunting flares we turned our dorsums And towards our distant remainder began to trudge.”

( Owen, 1979: 177 )

The filming, as Cook ( 1996 ) inside informations is one of the film’s most memorable characteristics. The scenes of the battleground and the desolation caused by months of uninterrupted contending are matched merely by the changeless sound of bombs that pepper the soundtrack and faze the spectator every bit good the characters. The ‘shot-reverse-shot’ ( Bordwell and Thompson, 1997:288 ) scenes affecting the fire of the machine gun conveying the spectator into the action, coercing them to face the world and the force of war, as work forces are cut down before their eyes and the relentless yak of the early machine gun dominates the aural landscape. Milestone’s usage of sound is all the more impressive when we consider that, in 1930, it was merely merely get downing to do itself felt in movie production. Sarris ( 1998 ) for case, tells us that this was the twelvemonth that Howard Hawks made his first all speaking imageThe Dawn Patrol( 1930 ) and Alfred Hitchcock’sBlackmail( 1929 ) , the first British all speaking movie, was released merely a twelvemonth earlier. The usage of sound, inAll Quiet on the Western Front, is every bit sophisticated as the usage of picture taking that has been copied clip and clip in war movies since.

Basically, nevertheless, as Bordwell and Thompson ( 1994 ) province Milestone’s movie is an anti-war polemist and it still serves as such today. Of class, it is interesting to see the movie within its socio-political context ; by 1930 Germany was get downing to seed the seeds of the political political orientations that would climax in the Second World. The Hitler Youth was founded 1922, in 1930 Hans F.K. Gunther was appointed to the chair of racial anthropology as Jena and subsequently became a Nazi Party member ( Friedlander, 1995 ) , the Nazi Party was considered such a menace socio-politically that many governments banned their constabularies force members from fall ining ( Johnson, 1999 ) and it was to be merely another three old ages until Hitler was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer ( Burleigh, 2000 ) .

It is impossible non to read the marks of these socio-historical events in Lewis Milestones’ impassioned supplications for peace and clemency in the face of an all destructing force of war. Baumer’s simple summing up of his experiences of the forepart that he gives to the fresh faced voluntaries encapsulate neatly the humanistic and fatalistic tone of the remainder of the work:

“We live in the trenches and we fight. We try non to be killed – that’s all.” ( Abbott and Anderson, 1930 )

As Brogan ( 1985 ) suggests, the US entry into the First World War was a complex procedure of reluctance and existent politick, in fact, as he inside informations, many Americans were incognizant of the physique up of belligerencies let alone their eventual engagement in them. Woodrow Wilson entered the war as much on ideological evidences as national security, as Brogen provinces:

“Jefferson and Lincoln had dedicated the Revolution and the Civil war to the cause of humanity…The best that can be said for Wilson as he declared a war for democracy, an ideological war, is that any other adult male in his topographic point would hold had to offer such a justification for his actions, and that few others could so articulately have articulated one so baronial and so plausible.” ( Brogan, 1985: 491 )

The impression that, for the US disposal and public, the First World war was as a much an ideological stance as an act of national defense mechanism ( like the Second World War for case ) is clearly reflected inAll Quiet on the Western Frontthat can be seen as a reaction against the inanity of such a place. In a scene towards the center of the movie, for case, the chief supporters discuss the nature and grounds for war, their concluding becomes more and more absurd as the conversation continues but the sarcasm that none of their suggestions are every bit meaningless as the existent state of affairs is non lost on the audience.

All Quiet on the Western Front, so, is a movie of its clip and a movie for all clip. It reflects the US stance in the mid war period, aware possibly of the socio-political motion in Europe and desperate non to reiterate the experiences of 12 old ages earlier ; but it besides says something cosmopolitan about the holiness of life and the fright felt by the ordinary solider – whether that solider be in the trenches of Flanders or the comeuppances of Iraq. As a historical papers, Milestone’s movie represents a surprisingly modern-day position of war, the soldiers are unromantically portrayed as rounded human existences, given both to great bravery and ferociousness ; as a movie it is a sophisticated Hollywood production that has created a manner of look and a vocabulary of images that has been borrowed from of all time since.


Bordwell, D and Thompson, K ( 1994 ) ,Film History: An Introduction, London: McGraw Hill.

Bordwell, D and Thompson, K ( 1997 ) ,Film Art: An Introduction, London: McGraw Hill.

Brogan, H ( 1985 ) ,Longman History of the United States of America, London: Longman.

Burleigh, M ( 2000 ) ,The Third Reich: A New History, London: Pan.

Cook, D ( 1996 ) ,A History of Narrative Film, London: Norton.

Curley, S and Wetta, F ( 1992 ) ,Celluloid Wars: A Guide to Film and the American Experience of War, London: Greenwood Press.

Kester, B ( 2003 ) ,Film Front Weimar: Representations of the First World War in the German Films of the Weimar Period, London: AUP.

Owen, W ( 1979 ) , ‘Dulce et decorousness est’ published in Silkin, J ( erectile dysfunction ) , The Penguin Books ofFirst World War Poetry, London: Penguin.

Schatz, T ( 1996 ) ,The Genius of the Studio System, London: Faber and Faber.

Walker, J ( erectile dysfunction ) ( 2002 ) ,Halliwells’ Film Guide, London ; Harper Collins

Whiteclay Chambers, J and Culbert, D ( 1996 ) ,World War II, Film and History, Oxford: Oxford.


All Quiet on the Western Front( 1930 ) , dir. Lewis Milestone

Blackmail( 1929 ) , dir. Alfred Hitchcock

The Dawn Patrol( 1930 ) , dir. Howard Hawks

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