One of the many nights I’ve stayed up enduring a typical migraine attack, I sat on my couch around 2am and as usual, spun the remote over the movies. To my fortune, I hit upon the original 1930 version of the famous film “All Quiet on the Western Front.” I’ve heard about this movie since I was a little kid, but for one reason or another, only a couple of years ago I stumbled upon it.
For a brief breakaway, in the 1990’s a documentary called “The Great War and the Shaping of the 20th Century” came on and caught my attention immediately. As I’ve written previously, my vast hard science and mathematics education left little room to take history courses, and like so many others, high school seems as long ago as first grade at my age. The “Great War” documentary perked my interest in how important World War I was, not only from a military, but from a political standpoint as well. Today we continue to see news almost daily where the background can be tracked back to WWI.
So, when I turned on the film, noting its four-star rating the channel gives, I thought it’d be worth my time to sit and watch it. Luckily, I caught the beginning, and to those interested, this is a film that needs to be watched from beginning to end in order to take in the entire message. In a brief non-spoiler summary, the story introduces the audience to a group of students ready to fight for their county, and later bringing out the main character named Paul. Paul is followed as he first enters the Western Front, is exposed to the horrors of trench warfare, facing dangers from ground artillery, and attacks from the air. He sees his friends fall, gets wounded himself, and goes home on leave, realizing he’s no longer the young man once so eager for battle. The final scene in this film is one the most famous in cinematic history.
Needless to say, my husband found me crying uncontrollably by the time he woke up. I watched it a couple of more times, with the same effect. Now, as I think back about this moving picture, it’s really fascinating what they were able to communicate on film during the days of infancy in audio. Also, blood and entrails may be added for a visual effect of horrors, but this film got the point across without any of that. How did that happen? It happened by excellent writing (a classic book), excellent directing, and excellent acting.
I know a lot of wartime veterans. When I ask their opinion on a favorite war film, most of them say “The Longest Day.” I agree, this is a short-list favorite of mine as well. When I mention, “All Quiet on the Western Front, 1930 version,” most of them say, “Well, of course!” Meaning, some stories reach the level of classic that it goes without saying.
Though this is my final of my series of articles to commemorate Veteran’s Day, I never reach the end of the appreciation I have for so many that gave their lives for my freedom and continue to protect us at great personal risk today. If I did this tour correctly, hopefully I’ll be back with another series Memorial Day.