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All Quiet on the Western Front. 1979 version.
This is another film in my favourite film genre. This film is from a German view point of the First World War, which is an unusual stand point from a movie aspect. The film begins in Germany around 1914, and a class of teenage boys are being coerced and impelled to join the Imperial German Army and fight in the trenches. Their school master makes the boys believe in the honour and glory of the war leading them to have a false and glorified idea of trench warfare. The boys allusions of army life and war are abruptly reversed when the they start basic training and when the boys are ultimately sent to the front they are faced with the true horrors of the trenches and you as a viewer see the tremendous courage and bravery these young boys have and you also get a glimpse of the feelings they have. The stories focus is around Paul Baumer played by Richard Thomas who is famous for his role in `The Walton's` as John-Boy. You watch as this boy becomes a man and see him cope in the most unimaginable of situations. As friends are lost and battles fought this young man has to find the endurance and determination to carry on.
This film is acted well but occasionally misses the target slightly although Richard Thomas plays his role sensitively and he portrays the true harshness of war.
This is a great film that is from an unusual stand point and it makes you see the true horrors of war making you realize that both sides of the barbed wire had good men and horrendous deaths. It's very interesting to see that the impact of war was as bad for both sides, often the Germans are over looked and the hardships and horrors they suffered are not always recognised. This film faces this head on in a very direct but incisive and respectful way.
The films side effects are pretty good considering it was made in 1979 and the acting is good. The director Delbert Mann has done a great job in transplanting you back in time to experience both the heart break and the comradeship that is only present in situation of immense danger.
The film is based on the book by Erich Maria Remarque who was a German veteran of World war one. I have not read the book so cannot compare the two but it is on my to do list. If, like me, you have an interest in this genre, then I would highly recommend it. This film is dated and although todays movies have better effects, I think there is something special about the older films, they seem more unrefined and raw, but that is simply my personal opinion.
I have decided to use this as a teaching aid for my son when we start learning about the first world war because I believe that you need to teach children not simply the causes and reasons of war but the true impact on regular people on both sides. This will be of great assistance in showing my son the impact on the soldiers which will I believe give him a more realistic idea of what war is like.
The DVD is classified at PG and this seems appropriate, but I would be more careful with more sensitive children because of the sensitive nature of the story line and genre. The films main focus is about the very delicate and emotive issues of warfare, death and lose and how Paul copes with these, so I would recommend you watch the film yourself before allowing a child to watch.
I got mine from Tesco for £4.00 years ago but they are available at amazon for £4.75 with free delivery which is great value for money.
Overall I think this film is great and would definitely recommend it for anyone who has a keen interest in the wartime genre
The book All Quiet on the Western Front, published in 1929, is probably the most powerful anti-war novel ever written. A complex novel - full of important questions about war and warfare - adapting it for the big screen was always going to be a daunting task. Yet Lewis Milestone's effort makes a very good stab at it; something which is all the more impressive considering it was released in 1930 in the early days of cinema.
As with the book, it follows the experiences of several classmates, all of whom sign up to fight for Germany in the trenches of the First World War. Their experiences of death, friendship and fighting force them to grow up and become old past their years; lost and rootless, with no past to anchor them, and no future to look forward to.
The key reason the film is so successful is that it sticks very closely to the book, proving both a very faithful and a very effective adaptation. This gives the film the same natural progression and strong narrative themes, allowing for them to be explored and developed in the same way. If you have read the book, you will feel instantly at home with the characters and the situations; if you have not read it, you will find the story easy to follow and the main themes easy to spot.
Inevitably, some do get a bit lost, or are not explored to the same depth. Some of the more complex ideas are simplified or only touched upon briefly, others feel slightly rushed. The themes of friendship and loss don't get anything approaching the same level of treatment, for example. Yet, there is still a rawness and power to the film; an emotional pull that hits you as characters are killed or wounded. True, the film never quite captures the same emotional intensity as its written counterpart, but within the constraints of a 2 hour running time, it still does a pretty impressive job.
Despite its age All Quiet on the Western Front is a surprisingly accomplished piece of film-making. Some of the battles are genuinely impressive, featuring hundreds of extras in frenetic, frantic fighting which perfectly captures the sense of chaos and confusion that epitomised Western Front offensives. There's a real sense of tragedy as we see man after man (from all sides) mown down by gunfire as they desperately charge the enemy trenches.
The film succeeds on a smaller scale, too. Late night missions to repair damaged wire have a real sense of danger and claustrophobia; some of the scenes set in under-fire dug-outs are genuinely tense, as bomb after bomb causes the underground shelters to shudder and collapse. As well as drawing on the powerful ideas of the original text, it's clear that the film-makers are using first hand knowledge of the terrible conflict which, in 1930, would still be fresh in the minds of so many people.
True, some of the sequences look a little staged, with actors sitting stiffly or moving awkwardly towards obviously placed cameras, but give it some slack, for goodness sake! By the standards of the 1930s, this is a hugely ambitious and excellently realised film.
You also need to allow All Quiet on the Western Front a bit of leeway when it comes to the acting, and again view it in the context of it's time. In 1930, "talkies" were still relatively new (1927's The Jazz Singer is widely accepted as the first) and it shows. There is a definite sense that many of the actors are not used to the new medium and are more used to either theatre productions or silent movies. Those who are used to the theatre, have a tendency to shout, as though they think they need to project their voice so that the people at the back can hear; those who are used to silent films rely a little too much on over-exaggerated facial movements and gestures to convey various emotions.
But don't be too harsh on it. Look at it through the eyes of a 1930s cinema-goer, not a 21st century one. Sure, it's slightly disconcerting to hear all these "German" soldiers speaking with a "Gee Whizz! Golly!" American accent, but even this can't get in the way of some truly poignant moments (Kemmerich's death - one of the most heartbreaking sequences in the book - loses little in translation; Paul's disastrous trip home on leave is one of the most emotional sequences in the entire film). Certainly it never conveys quite the same level of emotion as the book, since some of the inner thoughts of key characters are lost, but it does a very good job overall.
It's through the characters that the limitations of the film come out most strongly. A 145 running time (long for the time) is still not enough to give all the characters the same depth and attention that they enjoyed in the book. As such, three come to prominence - Kat, Tjaden and Paul Baumer (through whose eyes the story is told). The rest are all present and correct, but not as well developed and so, when they die or are injured, there is not quite the same emotional impact you get when reading the book.
Still, the central, developing friendship between Kat, Tjaden and Baumer is well-handled and brings some of the film's lighter moments of humour and banter (needed to contrast with the horrors around them.) You genuinely get the impression that here are three men who would die for each other and their friendship comes through strongly.
The ending, meanwhile, has deservedly become iconic. It might be different to the book, but in its own way it is no less powerful. It perfectly sums up the book's anti-war message by bringing the mass tragedy and horror down to a more personal level.
All Quiet on the Western Front is not going to be a film for everyone. It's relatively sedate pace and dialogue heavy nature means that some will find it boring. Others will not be able to look past the somewhat stagey acting. Yet, if you judge it on its own merits, you will find it a worthwhile film. It might not be as emotionally powerful as the book, but it stands up well as a companion piece to it. Hollywood is currently remaking this (something they have already tried and failed to do once), but other than bringing 21st century special effects to the battle recreations, it's hard to see it surpassing this version.
All Quiet on the Western Front
Director: Lewis Milestone
Running time: approx. 145 minutes
© Copyright SWSt 2010
I saw this film many years ago so wanted to check it out when it came out restotred on DVD in 2006. The movie was originally made way back in 1930 and for me was a classic film in it's day and was recognised at the time as a landmark anti-war classic.
The movie is largely the retelling of the original novel where we see the tragedy and suffering of the first world war through the eyes and from the point of view of a German solider fighting. The novel is entirely based around his views and thoughts, whereas in the film there is no real central character establised for maybe the first hour.
The movie visually graphic and considering when it was made originally the battle scenes are spectacular and realistic if not quite horrific but then the film is a realistic depiction of the First World War. There is one particularly harrowing scene in which we see a body blown apart and nothing left but a pair of hands clinging to some barb wire.
As illustrated earlier the whole movie is an anti-war story as it follows a group of young Germans who are excited about joining the war, but gradually become disillusioned with it all as so many I imagine did and realise the waste and uselessness of the whole thing, not to mention the pointless waste of human lives.
The story of Baumer, the young German soldier, takes us from the classroom where he studied in Germany to recuritment for the army and then on to the horror of the battlefield during the war. His comrades are killed off as the film goes on in the heat of battle and he starts to reflect on what he is doing here and whether it's really worth it.
Overall this movie has plenty of originality as it tells the story of the first World War through the eyes of a German soldier which a lot of moveis don't do. There is deeply harrowing message throughout and a lesson in the futility of war and how senseless it really is. I would recommend watching this movie as an illustration of an early war film that will always remain a classic.
The second film adaptation of the book of the same name, 1979s All Quiet on the Western Front is essentially a more modern adaptation of the early 1931 film that now looks, due to its status as an early talkie with over-exaggerated acting, quite dated. The legacy of the First World War in film, novels and poetry still serves to remind successive generations of the errors made in the past, and this film takes a reasonably balanced and very personal look at the effects of the war on the human body and soul, based on true events that many soldiers of the past were doubtless all too familiar with.
PRESENTATION OF WAR
The film begins with a brief introduction to the characters from Baumers narration and immediately presents the audience with a scene of devastation and the horror of warfare, with the Germans defending against incoming British soldiers and then returning the assault, eventually retreating to their trenches. While this lacks the violence and bloodshed of something like Saving Private Ryan, the constant stream of falling men has a similar impact and puts across the films message perfectly.
The honest and fairly balanced view of the novel is reproduced perfectly, showing that there was still merriment to be had in the right opportunities, however the negative side is constantly brought back to the viewers attention and manages to be increasingly effective. This is especially true when the young recruits are sent to supplement Baumers unit, and their lack of experience leads to them falling into deadly gas and fatally panicking in the flimsy underground trenches.
Every memorable aspect of the novel is brought to the screen, from the nationalistic teacher urging Baumer and his classmates to join up for the Fatherland to the main characters empty feelings on his brief return home.
German author Erich Maria Remarques All Quiet on the Western Front is the best selling novel based on the First World War, the author primarily using his own war memoirs as the foundation of the work. Remarques book, while stemming from the German perspective of the battle, is still an accurate portrayal of the universal effects of war on society and the individuals who fight, and its personal approach sets it apart from a lot of other published memoirs of the time, both German and British, that were released to the public eye with a clear political strategy. Remarques novel, while clearly anti-war at many points, was mostly concerned with expressing the Great Wars cost to his friends lives and his outlook on the world, and was one of many books banned from German publishing once the Nazi party took control.
Paul Baumers narration at times throughout the film is mostly taken directly from the English translation of Remarques novel and every memorable aspect of the tale is brought to the screen: from the nationalistic teacher urging Baumer and his classmates to join up for the Fatherland to the main characters empty feelings on his brief return home. The film even follows the slightly disjointed structure of flashing back to the high spirits and feelings of pride on the enlistment day, contrasted with life in the trenches and the death of friends on the battlefield and in the field hospital.
CAST & PRODUCTION
This film requires a little suspension of disbelief at times when the German soldiers talk about England in their very British and American accents, but at least this means there are no frustratingly false German accents throughout. The principal actors playing the young soldiers are all competent and believable, but not overly impressive due to the constraints of the script. Even Richard Thomas role as the main character Paul Baumer is quite low-key, but it isnt distracting in the way that lesser actors would doubtless be. Ian Holm, one of my favourite actors, is perfect as the aggressive Corporal Himmelstoss, staying completely faithful to the diminutive angry slave driver of the novel that caused the narrator to question why aggressive small people always seem to be in power.
Production-wise, the film looks very impressive and likely required a high budget for its period costumes and sets. I was surprised to learn that this had been produced as a television film rather than something cinematic, especially as the attention to detail and the very realistic presentation of No Mans Land is on par with any other film of the era.
Im not usually a fan of war films, but the personal approach of this film makes it very compelling and moving. Its very easy to empathise with the main character as he sees his friends killed off one by one and finds he is no longer the same person during his time away from the front, although its also clear that those of us who have never been in battle will never be able to truly appreciate it. This film stays incredibly loyal to the previous film and indeed the original novel, and the popularity of Remarques book is very understandable.
Very believable and not overlong, this film has not dated and is a perfect example of a movie adaptation living up to its source text, even down to some very memorable lines.