105 of 114 people found the following review helpful
One of the first war movies is still one of the best,
This review is from: All Quiet on the Western Front (DVD)
This reviewer give this move 5 stars. It is actually 10 out of 10.
Some people will say the movie's black and white color is distracting. This the Great War we are watching. Only the paintings were color. Color photography was not invented yet. So it actually enhances the feel of the movie.
This movie is a great. It completely captures what trench warfare was like. It was a muddy, miserable life with rats and little food. Somebody was always shooting at you. That is trench warfare.
The basic plot is about a school student, Paul, who is convinced by his school teacher to join and fight with the army in 1915. The class enlists in mass, goes through training together, and then march off to fight at the Western front.
The movie is like chapters in a book. Most Americans don't understand what old Germany was like. Old Germany was a land of Christian values. The Kaiser (translation: the emperor) was seen as a direct official working under God's blessing. The family of Germany was the center of society. All students were good in school or properly learned their jobs. They obeyed their parents and the Church. Old Germany was quite highly though of in pre-WWI America.
The fact that Paul was in high school (gymnasium) proves he was an exceptional student. In Germany the poorly performing students are sent to trade school. Paul's being in gymnasium proves he is one of the more intellectually advanced students.
Yes, this movie is shot in America. However, the sets look like they were made in old Europe. There are cobblestone roads, the signs are in German, the writing on the chalk board is in old German script, and the soldiers sing German folk tunes. The movie is like a time machine to another age. Even a graveyard looks like a European graveyard, not American. The technical lenghts this movie goes through is nearly boundless.
The shown German basic training was quite realistic. Why? An American army unit would band together people from all over the nation. Strength through diversity and all that. Germany was much more realistic. They had training centers in every "state". This had advantages in training because the Germans started with a much more heterogeneous group and later subordinated the unit to a greater good, such as their division. In America there are racial, regional (like Texas vs New York), and religious problems which never were worked out in WWI or WWII. Thus Paul and his group are much more worried about their Oberfreiter (sergeant) and conforming to the norms of their assigned army unit than a likewise American unit would be during that time period. So, Paul's unit training as a cohort is quite correct.
And Paul's unit joining the front lines is quite realistic. They go from being a group of trainees to veterans very fast after being caught in an artillery bombardment. The wire laying detail is quite correct. When Corporal Katczinsky is smoking his pipe watching the operation that's correct. Pipes don't have the glow of a cigarette at night time, the walls of the pipe mask the burning.
The technical details on this movie are fantastic. The soldiers actually eat at a real German food kitchen. The Soldier's equipment is what the Imperial German Army actually wore in the war. The European villages are quite convincing sets. The artillery bombardments look so good that out takes of the scenes are used in other war movies. Take note of this, the German Army in WWI and WWII did not do a very good job of feeding their soldiers. The German army felt a well fed soldier would not want to fight. The logic was the famished German soldiers would at least raid the enemies lines for food. In real life the underfed Germans had to loot the locals. They were all starving. This leads up to a very strong scene with some French girls.
Another underrated scene is inside of the German Bier Garten (bar). The sausage, pickles, and snacks the Germans ate was quite accurate. The posters on the wall are all quite correct for the period. The German soldiers are all singing a happy German beer drinking song. I loved this snapshot of old Germany.
The friendship between Paul and Katczinsky is quite believable. Katczinsky is a working man from Eastern Germany. Paul is a soon-to-be-playwright. However, these two divergent characters soon develop a strong friendship almost immediately.
This movie closely follows the book, but not exactly. The movie didn't have the time.
Now, as a child this reviewer was taught that the Great War, WWI, was not that significant. Actually, it's the most significant war of the 20th Century. It is the start of a 20 year period of warfare in Europe, with some minor breaks, that ends with Soviet troops standing in the pulverized rubble of Berlin.
Everything is gone by 1945. The royalty of Europe is destroyed (You think Prince Charles is in the same League as King George?). The families are shattered by war. The land is laid waste. The Christian faith went from over 95% church attendance to less than 10% in less than 60 years: the wars destroyed the faith in King, Country, and God. Europe was the pearl of Western Civilization in 1910. By 1945 millions were dead and Europe was reduced to a minor player in the world stage.
The movie is an analog of real life. The best that Western civilization can offer is destroyed and all that exists in the end is destruction and death.
This is a must see movie. It should be part of every military historians library.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 19, 2009 6:07:08 PM PST
I would like to add, that the german dubbing of this movie is so perfect, that i thought it was a german made move when i was younger.
Posted on Jun 20, 2012 8:53:44 PM PDT
Freedom Mann says:
As fine a review as I've ever seen on "Amazon;" thank you.
Posted on Dec 24, 2013 12:45:40 PM PST
Eric Perlin says:
Your review is very well-written, but I must make a technical correction regarding a a statement in your second sentence. Color motion picture photography DID exist in 1930, although it was rarely used. There were several short films made in the 1920's that were filmed in color, including a 1927 silent short called "The Flag", which dramatized the story of Betsy Ross designing the first American flag.
Believe it or not, the earliest known color film was made in 1902, and you can still see it on YouTube!
As for still photographs, the first known color photos were taken as early as the 1860's.
Even so, I fully agree with you that "All Quiet on the Western Front" is most effective in black and white, and would probably have not worked as well if had been in color.
In reply to an earlier post on Mar 10, 2014 5:33:31 AM PDT
Stephen Sedmak says:
Part of the wedding of Kaiser Wilhelm's daughter was filmed in color in 1913.
Lots of horses on the street. I kept expecting to see an automobile, but nope - it was 1913 ;-)
Not that cars didn't exist back then, but I guess at the time they weren't elegant enough for the Emperor's family.
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