"All Quiet On The Western Front" (2022)
26 January 2023
This excellent anti-war film based on the 1929 novel "Im Westen nichts Neues" by Erich Maria Remarque is currently available on Netflix. At two hours twenty eight minutes in length, it is an epic watch yet I must admit that I was gripped throughout it.
Unusually, it considers World War One from a German viewpoint and from there it looks just as ugly, just as pointless and just as inhuman as it has variously been seen from the opposite angle.
It mostly revolves around the last weeks of the war and focuses upon a group of school friends who have joined up with boyish notions of what being a soldier will be like. Their fantasies are quickly dashed as they enter a living hell of mud, blood, noise and confusion. What is it all for? Nobody seems to know.
One of the school chums almost makes it to The Armistice at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day in the eleventh month of 1918. He is Paul Bäumer played by Felix Kammerer and as witnesses we have watched him all the way, through the trenches, the killing and the camaraderie. Dialogue is sparse and Bäumer seems to be in a permanent state of terror.
As I say, words are few. This film relies heavily on imagery. It's hard to talk when you are surrounded by brutality and the obvious futility of war. There's a starkness about it all - little colour in an endless winter. It could so easily have been filmed in black and white were it not for the orange flame throwers and the scarlet puddles of blood.
You may prefer films that you can skip away from having been lightly entertained - an "ooo!" here and a chuckle or a tear there but conversely, "All Quiet On The Western Front" grabs you by the throat and tells you that it is something more than mere entertainment.
Looking at what is currently happening in Ukraine, we may reflect upon why humanity has still not learnt vital lessons about the absurdity of war. We carry on as though there was no yesterday.
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