This movie managed to recreate the horrors of war on the screen, with an intensity that was not only gripping and awe-inspiring in those times but has conclusively sustained its relevance and appeal, even today. Lewis Milestone, with an essentially cinematic panache and finesse, managed to unravel the conflict inherent between the youthful yearning for fame and heroism and the frustrating violence and irony that waited for a group of greenhorns who trudged their way to the battlefield, enveloped in an aura of grandeur and great expectations. The theme and cinematographic techniques exploited in the movie were to set the pace for the future war movies. “All Quiet on the Western Front” unraveled the basic accouterments of modern warfare, be it gut wrenching hunger and maddening insecurity, disturbing bloodshed and the pain of losing friends, the essential trauma that accompanies an unromantic death, with an intensity that is gripping and unsettling at the same time.
Even today, the primary misconception that is the bane of Hollywood war movies is the unrelenting belief that a war movie to be successful has to inevitably rely on the grandeur and mammoth scale of the battle sequences, pepped up by a generous usage of war machinery, fanfare, and special effects. Milestone shattered such notions of magnanimity by letting this movie evolve beyond a spectacular dependence on costly and elaborate battle scenes, to penetrate deep into the recesses of the human psyche that are inherently averse to violence and bloodshed....
nanimity by letting this movie evolve beyond a spectacular dependence on costly and elaborate battle scenes, to penetrate deep into the recesses of human psyche that are inherently averse to violence and bloodshed. The movie is effectively and genuinely interspersed with intense and isolated scenes, which crystallize the actors' sense of fear, guilt and apprehension in an individualistic yet interrelated moment of time, highlighted by an apt usage of montage sequencing, parallel editing and high key lighting. One such awesome scene is the moment when Paul, while searching for safety and security in the trenches had to kill an enemy soldier, in an instinctive and desperate pursuit for survival. The cinematographer deftly managed to catch the trauma and guilt that takeover Paul, as he helplessly watched the prolonged and slow death of an enemy. Not only this, but the director was skillfully able to sustain Paul's disillusionment, guilt and agony for quiet a long time, accentuating its scope with just the right blend of lighting, sound and acting, which bring forth an enervating sense of claustrophobia laced with apprehension that defined the life in the trenches. This scene happened to be one amongst many such scenes that made this movie an everlasting success.
The essential challenge before any anti-war movie is to build on the ubiquity and irrationality of war, which is inherently an anti-hero theme. The director is required to sustain and build upon the meaninglessness and futility of violence up to the level where all perceptions pertaining to the well-defined antagonists and protagonists melt and evaporate, making way for the inevitability of death that does not differentiate between a friend and a foe. The movie under consideration qualifies to be an all-time