A German youth's eagerness for war quickly turns to horror and resentment when he's sent to the western front of the first World War.
All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
Directed by Lewis Milestone
Written by George Abbott and Maxwell Anderson
Starring Lew Ayres, Louis Wolheim, John Wray, Arnold Lucy,
Ben Alexander, Scott Kolk, Owen Davis Jr., Walter Rogers
Based on the novel by Erich Maria Remarque
Oscar Wins - Best Picture, Best Director
Oscar Nominations - Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography
All Quiet on the Western Front is considered by many to be one of the greatest war movies of all time. Its depictions of fearsome battles, grisly casualties, and post-traumatic stress are some of the earliest in cinema history. In many ways, the film is a pioneer of visual achievement. Personally, I found it awfully dull apart from its technical work. Lew Ayres delivers a fine performance amidst a sea of characters we don't spend nearly enough time with to care about. I think the message that "war is hell" was delivered a bit clumsily too. We have more than a few moments where a character is waxing poetic about how bad war is. Short of pointing directly at the camera, I don't think there was a less subtle way the filmmakers could've made their point.
World War I has just begun, and already Europe is in absolute crisis. A group of German youths are encouraged by their warmongering teacher to join the army and defend the fatherland. Odd how all the principle characters speak perfect English and all resemble a young John Wayne or Rock Hudson, but hey, this was 1930 Hollywood. I honestly think it's the best they could do without somehow being embarrassingly racist. Anyway, we follow these youths as they join up and learn that war is actually terrible. Two and a half hours later, Paul (Ayres) has become a hardened soldier and goes back to his teacher to warn the students that he's completely full of shit and doesn't know what he's talking about when it comes to the reality of war. Lew Ayres's performance just about saves this one for me.
I understand the respect that this film commands. It's just not my cup of tea. That's the beauty of art. It's all subjective. There are horrible reviewed films out there that are some of my lifelong favorites. On the other hand, there are beloved classics out there that I can't stand. Regrettably, I don't see myself going back to All Quiet on the Western Front anytime soon. It's just not for me.