All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) Film Review


I vaguely recall reading All Quiet on the Western Front as a set text in high school. Year 8, or perhaps Year 9. I don’t remember a lot of it, but that it was a classic that showed the horrors of trench warfare. That and the horses dying. This interpretation is from 1930 – what an interesting. Pre-WW2, during the Great Depression. The story is that of German soldiers during the trench warfare of the Great War. It follows Paul Baumer, whose entire class is encouraged to sign up and be heroes by their teacher, but as the film goes on, he becomes cynical and broken.

As with most films of this era, the acting is very over-the-top compared to what we are used to, with more melodrama than realism. If you watch the film with the eyes of a modern audience, the emotional scenes (such as those in the hospital, or with Paul Baumer in the trench overnight with a slowly dying enemy soldier) are cheesy and unrealistic. It is extremely important to view it as it would have been presented at the time.

One part of the film that is still as powerful now as it must have been then is the unrelenting fighting scenes. They are loud, fast but very, very long. It’s been a while since I saw Saving Private Ryan, but I recall the beach landing scene at the start being a long, unrelenting scene of a similar style (although with far superior technology). Interesting to think that such powerful moments could be created seventy years over eighty years ago. This film was part of the third Academy Awards. That’s pretty amazing.

All Quiet on the Western Front won Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director (Lewis Milestone) and was nominated for Oscars for Best Writing, Achievement (George Abbott, Maxwell Anderson, Del Andrews) and Best Cinematography.

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