All Quiet on the Western Front, the version copyrighted 1930. VHS tape
Five out of five stars
The vivid descriptions in the novel of the same name by Erich Maria Remarque make it one of the best antiwar books ever written. The matter-of-fact phrasing of the experiences of the main character release the power of war on the men that fight it and suffer wounds, whether they are physical or not. One of the most powerful messages is when the main character of Paul Baumer is asked to address a class of young men that will soon be putting on the German army uniform. He tells them, “We live in the trenches and we fight. We try not to get killed – that’s all.”
There is another powerful message of how war affects the men that fight it. When Paul is granted leave and goes back to spend time with his mother in his home town, he finds himself feeling very out of place. He misses the familiarity of the front lines, he finds his former life to now be an alien one.
This movie is an accurate visual recreation of the scenes in the book. There are times when the only things that matters is getting enough to eat, followed by staying warm and dry. Men lived in houses made of dirt, walked around in mud and shared their lives with vermin. They even grew used to the fact that the rats grew fat feeding on the dead bodies of their comrades.
Despite the limited capability for special effects at the time, the battle scenes are realistic, although the most powerful scenes are not of fighting, but of what they do when there is a lull or they have been pulled back to the rear and generally out of danger. It is then that their humanity reasserts itself and they demonstrate that even though they can all die in an instant, the men in the unit still care about each other.