ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT
ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT was one of the first foreign talkies to be shown in Germany in a dubbed version. Despite attempted disruptions by the National Socialists, it was one of the most successful films of the 1931/32 season. However, it could only be seen in an abridged version at the time, as was the case in most other countries, if it wasn’t banned outright.
“Erich Maria Remarque saw the film for the first time in August 1930. The Universal representative in London, James V. Bryson, flew with a copy to Germany and arranged a private screening for the author and his wife. Upon returning to London the next day, Bryson told reporters that Remarque hadn’t said a word during the screening, but left the cinema ‘with tears in his eyes’. According to Bryson, Remarque had told him: ‘The film is really wonderful. I cannot say any more.’”
(John W. Chambers II: All Quiet on the Western Front / Im Westen nichts Neues; in: Thomas F. Schneider (ed.): The Eye is a Strong Seducer – Erich Maria Remarque and Film; Universitätsverlag Rasch, Osnabrück 1998)
Georg Wilhelm Pabst tells the story of four soldiers on the front: a Bavarian, a student, a married man and a lieutenant. Their lives are destroyed by war: the student and the Bavarian perish in combat; on leave, the married man finds his wife in bed with a butcher boy and goes back to the front to die; the lieutenant becomes insane. The final sequence takes place in a field hospital that has been set up in a damaged church. One can see the maimed and seriously wounded, as well as dying soldiers and helpless medics, nurses and doctors who no longer have proper anaesthetics for the operations. Unlike ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT, Pabst omits pathos in describing the horror, but still impressively uses the new possibilities of sound film. The sounds of machines, explosions and screams all leave their marks on the viewer, as do the tracking shots through the trenches that were recreated on the back lot of the Bavaria Film Studios.
Director of the Film Museum in Munich
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