What a difference one year makes. In 1929 it was the pitiful Broadway Melody, a weak musical that somehow stood out in the year movies transitioned away from silent films. Just a year later, along came All Quiet on the Western Front, a timeless, powerful movie based on the German army in World War I.
The movie centers around a group of German teenagers who are all quickly talked into joining the war effort. They’re all super excited after a rousing speech from a professor of some sort, and after minimal training are sent out to war almost immediately. As one might expect, it does not go well for our group of youngsters. Those who actually lived were scarred for life.
I’m not much of a history buff, and embarassingly had to ask Lauren before the movie for a little background on World War I, but it wasn’t really relevant in this movie. It is said that this movie remains relevant even today, as things haven’t changed much regarding looking death in the face by going to war.
When we started watching this movie, it was already 11pm. Believe it or not, Lauren was the one who fell fast asleep. I started to doze off a time or two, but there was so much noise from bombs and machine guns going off that I popped back up within a second or two. A couple of the characters basically went crazy spending their days burrowed away in the trenches and lost their minds. One guy can’t take it anymore and goes running away screaming in a very high womanly pitch and predictably gets shot down.
By movie’s end, one of the guys returns from war and is asked to speak in front of a class of boys, just as the movie began. Only this time, he tells the boys the real truth about how nothing good comes of joining the war effort. Unlike the boys earlier in the film, these young chaps aren’t very excited and don’t go running out to sign up for war. This guy who had returned home is so psychologically scarred that he can no longer live a normal life and goes back to join his pals in the fight. The movie ends with a scene of thousands of crosses over the fields of all the fallen soldiers.
So, to sum it up, it was a very intense movie that remains historically significant. Many recognize it as the first real war movie and today’s directors acknowledge it as the inspiration behind their films, including Steven Spielberg with Saving Private Ryan.
It wasn’t an enjoyable movie to watch, but I don’t think it is supposed to be. I don’t think anyone’s gonna see this and want to watch it again and again. But it was a great movie for other reasons. “Haunting” is the best word I can think of to describe All Quiet. Compared side by side with 1929’s Broadway Melody, these two films aren’t even in the same class. All Quiet wins in a landslide.
Next in the queue, 1931’s Cimmaron.