It’s no secret that I am not a huge fan of A. black and white films, B. old films, and C. films about war. I wasn’t thrilled going into the viewing of this feature. At one point, though, I made a comment to Mouse that summarizes how I feel about this film and it’s significance. I was looking at Paul, the protagonist, who we follow as he goes from a young German man in school to a soldier on the frontlines in World War I. He enlists at the urging of his esteemed professor and classmates in an effort to valiantly serve his country – but a few years in, he learns all too well the futility and brutality of war. In one scene, I looked at his countenance and said, “He could be a young man today – as he was cast, he could be a modern soldier.
That is why this film, based on the renown book with the same title, is relevant. It depicts the relationships formed between the enlisted with heart and sensitivity. While the frontlines as they once were don’t exist in the modern theater of war in the same way much of the time, the violence of artillery and bombs and grenades is as shocking and jarring now as it was then. We remain engaged in a war in Afghanistan that has needlessly claimed lives and is, for all intents and purposes, going nowhere. So while this film is old, and in black and white, and set in another country, it hardly feels dated.
This is indeed an old one, only the second Best Picture with sound and third winner overall. As such, I was particularly keen on seeing how the technical aspects of the film were handled. I find the transition to sound an interesting phenomenon. As I’ve understood the story, the introduction of sound necessitated a whole new batch of technology, the handling of which had a deleterious effect on other aspects of filmmaking, particularly cinematography. I’ve tended to imagine sound films of this era as primitive curiosities, more like stage plays with a camera rolling, with the settings in interiors or soundstages clearly recognizable as such. In this, All Quiet On The Western Front exceeded my expectations. Yes, it had the uneven, noisy sound and Continue reading