Paul Baumer and his friends are typical teenage boys living in Germany during World War one. They live at home and attend school just like normal young boys until one life changing day when they enter school and listen painstakingly to the preaches off their teacher Professor Kantorek. The professor informs the boys rhetorically of how Germany needs them fighting for their country, glamorising the concept of war, mixing heroism and adventure in his speech leading the classroom full of young boys to rise with excitement cheering and eager to go and fight in the great war for their country.
Paul and his class friends are then recruited and sent to train in order to be prepared for the fighting that lays before them. The boys arrive at training camp and discover that their old postmaster ‘Himmelstoss’ is now their drill sergeant. Himelstoss quickly brings the recruits to the gruelling reality of war by training them strictly, and taking pleasure in ordering them to participate in bristly activities, both physically and mentally straining. The young recruits are now beginning to realise that they’re lives have probably been changed forever from this point. To add umour to the situation the boys do participate in seeking revenge on their old postmaster by subjecting him to humiliation, however, the film from this point is of a much more serious note as now they were to be sent to the front line.
The boys are sent to a French town, where the sight and sounds of shells are frequent. They are taken to a factory and greeted by older recruits, the young boys all display a feeling of intimidation by the men. The men act hard and callous towards the boys trying to prepare them for the realism of war. The food supplies are already down and the boys ry to explain they are hungry, this leads to a comical response by one of the older soldiers but later another on one of the soldiers (Kat)returns with a pig. Soon the boys were subjected to a shell fired their way, which lead one of the boys to soil his underwear. During that night one of the boys become blinded by the shells and shot by a shotgun and killed running out onto the frontline. The boys are now starting to give up hope, becoming starving and exhausted stuck in the trench. After yet, another battle we find out that out of 150 only 80 men are left.
Paul then goes to visit his friend Kimmerick in hospital. The war hospital was chilling and the sight of kimmerick having lost a leg mortifies Paul, and kimmerick even worse when he finds out! Kimmerick eventually dies and after seeing somebody trying to steal his boots Paul grabs them first. After recovering from a near-fatal wound Paul is given leave to return to his home town. Paul finds it extremely difficult to come to terms with his past life, he looks at his mounted butterfly collection on the wall. He and his sister reminisce about how they used to catch butterflies together.
Not long after Paul as walking by overhears his old teacher Professor Kantorek, continuing to glorify war to a group of young boys, the same age as Paul when he first began. Paul refuses to speak patriotic about the war thus booed at by a class full of excited, naive boys. Feeling lost and out of place, Paul returns to the front line. His unit has mostly been replaced by new young recruits, replicas of what he was when he began, but most of his old company had been killed. Paul is eager to learn that Kat is still alive, they both have a heart-warming chat and we learn Paul no longer feels omfortable doing anything else now, war had taken over and Kat was all he had left. After talking for a while a bomb from a plane tragically hits Kat on his kneecap. Thinking he will be ok Paul carries him to safety, sadly when he gets back he realises that Kat has died.
An extremely distressing moment as he keeps trying for Kat to drink the to water, trying not accept that he is no longer alive. The final moments of the film appear slowly and quietly. Ever so lightly you can hear a harmonica, whilst Paul is sitting alone in the trench, through a gun hole Paul notices butterfly and reached out for it, as he is bout to touch the creature a sniper takes a shot leaving Paul dead All Quiet on The Western Front is an anti-war film with a difference. Made in 1929 the sound quality and effects of the picture are bound to be a little shabby but this film really pulls it off. The messages and meanings throughout the film keep you going allowing on to become completely ignorant to the year it was released. What is so special about the film is that it follows world war one through a young Germans eyes, made by Americans this is quite outstanding as the Germans were their enemy.
Thus leading to a war film which cannot be mistaken as being patriotic for its country, just seeing war as it is was, what it really does. All quiet in the western front Could be argued one of the most realistic war films ever made. There are no deaths of glory, just men that died. One of the messages of the film I believe is try not to get over zealous. The school master is seen twice indoctrinating young boys head, and the excitement of the boys is extremely unusual in our eyes, but understandably in world war one Germany, young people did not njoy the luxuries we do today to keep them out of boredom, and Professor Kenmore was so persuasive in his language he convinced the boys that they were in for an exciting adventure.
“I believe it will be a short war” is a sentence the Professor reveals to the classroom of boys, ironically when Paul visits 3 years later Kenmore is still preaching excitement and adventure to promote nationalism among new fresh faced young boys, not giving any consideration to the empty thoughts he dished out freely years ago. Many of the boys probably came from poor urban areas, this was their chance to break away nd make something of themselves. The film is an amazing accurate account of what was occurring in Germany at that time. The relationship between Paul and Kat is one of sadness and joy.
The irony of it was that when Kat first met Paul he acted extremely intimidating towards him, leading the viewer to pick up a sense that he felt resentment towards him and the boys for what they are about to put themselves through, whilst fighting the war. The men could not be any more different yet towards the end they could not be any more the same. The experiences of ar had led them to think the same, even to the point where Paul informs Kat he is “all he has left. ” After witnessing his class friends injure themselves or die it seems the death of Kat may have sucked all the hope out of Paul. After going home, to discover he cannot live a normal life now after everything he has witnessed he returns to find comfort in Kat. When Kat dies the message being sent off by Paul is that after fighting on the front line the dead people are the lucky ones as the ones still alive have to live with what they have experienced.
Even without special effects all quiet on the western front is one of the most powerful films made, instead of using special effects the film can simply create power by using scenes such as Kemerick’s boot, after Kemmerick dies his pair of boots live on being passed down from solider to soldier after each of them died. The scenes where Paul visits Kemmerick in the hospital are also extremely powerful, yet daunting and horrifying at the same time. The horrifying part is that this film represents real life and scenes such as this did happen, people screaming with agony, dying or both.
The message is straightforward -this is the actual reality of war. The ovaral story line throughout is made chronologically and quite straight forward but the almost realistic feel of the film and the strong messages tell their own story. The irony of the last scene where, Paul is killed is yet again powerful and meaningful, a boy who has grown into a man trapped in the depths of war, dies trying to reach out for a butterfly. The irony is that the butterfly is free symboising what it is like to be at liberty, the complete opposite for Paul.
However, the butterflies meaning in the film is that Paul died trying to catch the butterfly but now he is dead he is free. Free from the physical and mental pain of war, which if he lived he would have to endure for the rest of his life. The films begins with the words “This story is neither an accusation, nor a confession and least of all an adventure, for death is not an adventure to those who stand face to face with it. It will simply tell of a generation of men, who, even though they may have escaped its shells, were destroyed by the war” which, explains it all really.