|General Friedrichs: What is a soldier without war?|
|Director: Edward Berger|
|Writer(s): Edward Berger, Lesley Paterson, Ian Stokell and based on the novel by Erich Maria Remarque|
|Starring: Felix Kammerer, Albrecht Schuch, Daniel Brühl|
Synopsis: A young German soldier’s terrifying experiences and distress on the western front during World War I.
As a teen I remember watching ‘Saving Private Ryan‘ in theaters and the traumatic impact of its opening scene remains vivid. The film’s opening is permeated with shocking and disturbing imagery that further intensifies the experience. I was shocked at the brutality but also enthralled with Steven Spielberg’s vision. This was the first time I saw the war depicted on screen in such a horrific way. During my childhood, I was exposed to a variety of war movies that were equally disturbing. Films such as Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July, Apocalypse Now, and Full Metal Jacket provided a shocking portrayal of the brutalities of war. These movies instilled in me a deep sense of fear about the prospect of being drafted and experiencing a future as bleak as the protagonists in those films. As a child, I was drawn to war films, and Saving Private Ryan was the pinnacle of that genre for me. I loved the movie, but I don’t remember ever experiencing a war film as intense and immersive as that until now. The film’s visceral depiction of the brutality and chaos of war was unparalleled, and it left a lasting impression on me. The movie conveyed a sense of realism and authenticity that I had not seen before, and it was as if I was right there alongside the soldiers, experiencing their struggles and triumphs firsthand. Even now, as an adult, I continue to be captivated by the power of Saving Private Ryan, and it remains one of my all-time favorite war films. Over the years, there have been many great war films that have left a significant impact on me, including Downfall and Inglourious Basterds (more for it’s ambition). However, none of them had the same emotional impact as Saving Private Ryan, until now.
All Quiet on the Western Front is a new war film that was able to match the intensity and realism of Saving Private Ryan. The film depicted the horrors of war in a way that was both raw and authentic, and it was as if I was transported to the battlefield, experiencing the events alongside the soldiers. The movie was a stark reminder of the senselessness and tragedy of war, and it left me feeling shaken and reflective. Although Saving Private Ryan will always hold a special place in my heart, this new war film proved to be just as powerful and thought-provoking.
The film follows a German soldier named, Paul Bäumer, (played intensely by Felix Kammerer) in World War I, the experience of battle was both grueling and harrowing. He was part of a generation of young men who had been trained to believe that war was an honorable endeavor, a duty to one’s country. But the reality was far different from the patriotic propaganda they had been fed. The trenches were dark and damp, and the soldiers were constantly under the threat of bombardment from the enemy. The smell of death and decay was ever present, and disease was rampant. Paul will see comrades fall beside him, their bodies ripped apart by bullets or blown to pieces by explosives. The horrors of war are etched into his memory forever. Despite the hardships, however, there was a sense of camaraderie amongst his fellow soldiers, and a belief that they were fighting for something greater than themselves. But as the war dragged on, and the casualties mounted, it became increasingly difficult to maintain that sense of purpose and the film takes its time to vividly illustrate just how far a soldier can fall in the face of war. The audience is given a raw and unflinching glimpse into the harrowing experiences and emotional toll that combat takes on a soldier. The film exposes the physical and psychological trauma that soldiers endure, as well as the mental and emotional challenges of being away from loved ones for extended periods. It shows how the brutal realities of war can change a person, often leaving them feeling broken and disillusioned. The film’s attention to detail and commitment to realism make it a poignant and sobering reminder of the sacrifices made by soldiers in times of conflict.
It’s unfortunate that the themes depicted in this film continue to be relevant today. As of 2023, conflicts and wars around the world are ongoing, and many people are experiencing the same harrowing situations depicted in these films. The ongoing Russian bombing of Ukraine and the Taliban’s resurgence in Afghanistan are just a couple of examples of the continued violence and instability in many parts of the world. It’s important to remember that war and conflict have devastating consequences, affecting the lives of innocent civilians and causing long-lasting damage to communities and societies. It’s a sobering reminder of the ongoing need for peace and diplomacy, as well as the importance of supporting those who are affected by war and its aftermath.