“All Quiet on the Western Front,” January 18, 2023 (2022), German with English Subtitles, Netflix, nominated for Best Picture and Best International Picture.
“My friend, you would not tell with such zest/To children ardent for some desperate glory/The old Lie/ Dulce et decorum est/Pro patria mori” wrote Wilfred Owen, shortly before his own death on the Western front in September 1918.
For those not convinced by Owen’s poetry, we have Edward Berger’s vision of hell based on the classic Eric Maria Remarque 1929 novel about the horrors experienced by German soldiers; many were barely past childhood. Indeed, “All Quiet” follows Paul Baumer (Paul Kammerer) from his ‘high school’ graduation to the Western front.
This film is a look at the carnage and horrors of WWI with its modern, ‘civilized’ war featuring barbed wire, machine guns, gas, high-powered artillery, tanks, and airplanes. Yet it also includes those more ‘intimate’ moments of hand-to-hand combat featuring knives, pistols, grenades, and bayonets, where ‘enemies,’ real or imagined, look one another in the eyes with terror, confusion, and fury as they kill on the orders of their leaders and misleaders. Finally, through Baumer’s experience, we see a young man coming of age in this nightmare. It is a deeply moving experience.
As we know, the western front fell silent at 11 a.m., on November 11, 1918, days after the armistice was signed. This is not an easy film to see, but it is an important one to view at this moment.
“My friend, you would not tell with such zest/To children ardent for some desperate glory/The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est/Pro patria mori.”