Friday, June 26, 2009

All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)

A young German soldier faces profound disillusionment in the soul-destroying horror of World War I. [imdb]

Nominated for 4 Oscars:

Best Picture (WINNER)
Best Director: Lewis Milestone (WINNER)
Best Writing
Best Cinematography

The 3rd Best Picture winner is a very fine adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque's famous novel. It's an interesting experience to watch it, as it's nice to see the story from a German perspective (it reminded me a bit of Letters from Iwo Jima and the Japanese view on the WWII battle). As a war film, it's excellent. As a movie experience in general, it's good. There are 3 or 4 aspects worth mentioning.
First one is that Lew Ayres, playing the young leading man Paul, gives a very good perfromance, touching and dramatic, especially considering this was just his 2nd big role and he was a 21 year old actor. I think he would've deserved a nomination. Another surprising fact for me was what they could get away with while doing a film in the 1920s and 30s. I didn't expect the brief male nudity shown here (you can see the boys' behinds while they're in the water bathing and swimming) :D I've noticed this type of freedom also in the previous BP winner (The Broadway Melody), where they showed women in their underwear :D I'm just mentioning it because I don't think such nudity would've been allowed in the 1940s or 50s American cinema.
There are one or two battle scenes that are quite impressive. I think Milestone did a very good job directing, so his Oscar is well deserved. And although I haven't seen its contenders, I would say that the film does look like a Best Picture winner should, having both the buzz factor (the importance), but also the quality. It's very touching at times and, unlike previous winner Wings, it has a strong message against war, definitely not glorifying it. I actually almost cried during a battle scene, to be honest :)
The film doesn't work that well when the fighting's not happening, showing flaws in the adaptation of this great novel. Looking at the poster, one might think that guy is the leading actor. Actually, I have no idea who that is. :) It's true. I think I might have seen him for like 2 minutes in the film, but I can't explain their decision to put him on the poster. Can someone explain?? Maybe they felt like giving an anonymous face to the soldiers represented in this film. I don't know.
My rating for the film: 8/10. I disagree with the ending which doesn't include the title of the film, as the book does. It's a smart explanation and I doubt everyone watching the film understood it, as they didn't bother to include it.

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