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Film Review

By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat


All Quiet on the Western Front
Directed by Delbert Mann
Universal Studios 11/79 DVD/VHS Feature Film
Not Rated

As war continues, both sides come more and more to resemble each other. The uroboras eats its own tail. The wheel turns full circle. Shall we realize that We and They are shadows of each other…When will the veil be lifted?
            — R.D.Laing

War is the ultimate doublecrosser; it takes away human dignity, freedom, brotherhood, meaning, and gives nothing back in return. War is a game for politicians and generals; for the ordinary soldier, it is a dance of death on the killing ground. These are some of the themes which emerge from Enrich Maria Remarque's classic World War I novel.

This Norman Rosemont production of "All Quiet on the Western Front" has a screenplay by Paul Monash. Delbert Mann directs a large cast including Richard Thomas, Ernest Borgnine, Ian Holm, Donald Pleasence, and Patricia Neal. This is the second film version of Remarque's novel; the first was done in 1930.

Just prior to World War I, Kontarek, a professor in a German Academy, fuels the ardors of his students with a vision of patriotism. He delivers his possible "Iron Heroes" into the hands of Himmelstoss, a poster-man turned military man. He takes great pleasure in shaping these soft boys into disciplined troops. In 1914, Paul Baumer, a sensitive and artistic boy, marches with his friends off to the front.

Katczinsky, a battle-worn noncommissioned officer, gives them helpful practical advice on how to say alive in the trenches. Despite efforts to keep his spirits high, Paul is disillusioned by all the death and destruction around him. A face-to-face encounter with a Frenchman he's shot stings his conscience. A trip home only confirms the alienation he's feeling. Returned to action, he dies on the same day the German High Command gives the order "All Quiet on the Western Front."


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by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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