Jun 5, 2013

All Quiet on the Western Front

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Going into All Quiet on the Western Front, I'd already heard about the film's greatness and how it's a classic war film and all that good stuff. After a year that saw sound catastrophes and melodramatic/cheesy fluff in the forms of Coquette, Madame X, and The Broadway Melody (and that's just Best Actress), I had my doubts about whether or not a film made in 1930 could be all that great. 

And while I watched the impassioned monologue by Professor Kantorek in the beginning go down, I realized that everything everyone said was probably going to be right and this was about to be a spectacular viewing experience. And it was. All Quiet on the Western Front is amazing, especially for a film made in 1930, because it is nothing like any other Oscar nominated film at the time. The editing! The framing! The war scenes! The sound! The fact that this film came merely two years after Wings is a testament to the strides filmmakers were taking to master this medium. Compare the two and it's an embarrassment that Wings had to be the first Best Picture winning war film. What shocked me most about this film was the realness of it all--from the warzone horrors (the hands of that soldier!!) to the boys sneaking around for sex--the film isn't shy and thus doesn't try to cheat the viewer with an idealized, moralized vision of war. Sure, the fact that the story is about German boys yet Hollywood picked up some American ones with honest-to-god American accents to play them is a little annoying, but it's really minute in the grand scheme of things. The fact that Hollywood decided to make a picture that is about and also humanizes the Germans during WWI boggles my mind. The fact that they made the picture honestly when they could have easily held back, the fact that the film's aesthetics are top notch, that earns my respect and affection. (Random note: Steven Spielberg said this film was partial inspiration for Saving Private Ryan...perfect as I thought of Saving Private Ryan and his D-Day scene while watching this) All Quiet on the Western Front is a stunning cinematic achievement--certainly the very first film to win Best Picture thus far that I've found worthy of the title, and with that I give it

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