Film Analysis: All Quiet on the Western Front
Lewis Milestone’s All Quiet on the Western Front was one of the first realistic war films of its time. This film works to make a powerful statement about the misconceptions of war and fighting. Its message is one that anyone who has seen war close up can attest to. Regardless of time, location, or people, these realities have remained the same, which is why this film has grown to be a timeless classic. The purpose of this assignment will be to critique and analyze based in terms of film structure, acting, cinematography, editing, and musical score.
Based on the book of the same name written by Erich Maria Remarque, the story bases itself off Remarque’s own experiences as a German soldier during World War I. His book highlights both the physical and mental stress one goes through in war, as well as the detachment they feel once they return to civilian life. Since it was published in 1928, the book sold over 2.5 million copies, and has been translated into 25 different languages.
All Quiet on the Western Front won the Academy award for best picture in 1930. This film was directed by Lewis Milestone, and produced by Carl Laemmle, Jr. The screenplay was written by George Abbott. The musical underscore is accredited to David Broekman, with cinematography by Arthur Edeson.
The film follows the journey of several young boys who are persuaded to enlist into the German army during World War I by the passionate words of their overly patriotic schoolteacher. Once they arrive at basic training they are all eager to begin honing their skills. This excitement is soon killed when they meet their instructor, Himeltoss, who’s strict and punitive methods of training, gives the young recruits a serious wake up call from what they had originally hoped for. Once they complete their training they are sent to the frontlines, where they are greeted by fear, hunger, and death. The young soldiers are soon taken under the guidance of Stanislaus “Kat” Katczinsky, who teaches them everything he knows about staying alive in combat. After their first encounter with a barrage of artillery, they all come to realize that there is nothing glorious or heroic about fighting for one’s country. The film itself pays close attention to the exploits of one Paul Baumer, who eventually returns home after serving on the frontlines and experiencing war firsthand, and finds his same teacher giving the same speech to more young students. He tells them of his experiences, and attempts to explain the realities of war only to be denounced and labelled a coward. He then realizes that he has nothing in common with the home he left behind, and chooses to return to his company at the frontlines. The film ends with Paul reaching out to examine a butterfly he notices while sitting in his trench, only to be shot dead by an enemy sniper.
Lew Ayres as Paul Bäumer, the main character of the story.
Arnold Lucy as Professor Kantorek, the passionate and patriotic teacher who convinces all the boys that “fighting for the fatherland” is the true path to glory.
John Wray as Himmelstoss, the instructor of the young recruits. His strict disciplinarian ways cause him to be hated among the rest of the soldiers.
Walter E. Rogers as Behm, the first of the young men to be killed in combat.
Ben Alexander as Franz Kemmerich, one of Paul’s friends who is wounded in an artillery barrage. He is brought to the medical station, but later succumbs to his wounds.
Russell Gleason as Müller, another friend that is wounded in battle.
Louis Wolheim as Stanislaus Katczinsky, the tough, combat hardened mentor of the new recruits, who grows to be Paul’s best friend.
Slim Summerville as Tjaden, the older member of the group, who is often seen sharing...