In the wake of trench warfare in 1916 and for the purpose of disciplining his troops, a French general sentences three soldiers to death after a failed attack on a German position. Stanley Kubrick’s war film, shot at the Bavaria Film Studios in Munich, depicts the world of military commanders, who sit in a castle, planning their battle attacks. Here, common soldiers are moved like strategic pawns and the life of the individual means nothing. Long tracking shots in the military court, through the trenches and in the battle scenes draw the viewer into the action. Cobb’s fictional novel, which the film was based on, draws on historical events that are meticulously listed by the author in an endnote. The consistent exposure of nonsensical commands and the careerism of the military leaders meant that the film was banned in some countries. It was only publicly released in 1975 in France.

“The First World War was original in that there were no grounds for its existence and that it served no purpose. (...) It is a striking and perhaps the most blatant example of an absurd, senseless war; one that broke out on the basis of happenstance. None of the European countries voluntarily went to war or were fully aware of the degree to which they would later be involved. Naturally, it was preceded by a long period of peace, and the entire world was convinced that another war would never occur. (...) In a sense, our interest in the First World War is due to the fact that it represents a lesson for us today. People do not see that we are becoming increasingly less secure, the greater the number of peaceful years that pass.”
(Renaud Walter: Entretien avec Stanley Kubrick; in: Positif No. 100101, Paris, December 1968)

Author: Stefan Drößler
Director of the Film Museum in Munich

Translation by
TITELBILD Subtitling and Translation GmbH

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18 September 1957

Director: Stanley Kubrick
Screenplay: Stanley Kubrick, Calder Willingham, Jim Thompson, after a novel by Humphrey Cobb (1935)
Camera: Georg Krause
Music: Gerald Fried

Kirk Douglas (Col. Dax), Ralph Meeker (Cpl. Philippe Paris), Adolphe Menjou (Gen. George Broulard), George Macready (Gen. Paul Mireau), Wayne Morris (Lt. Roget), Richard Anderson (Maj. Saint-Auban), Joe Turkel (Pvt. Pierre Arnaud)

Production: Bryna Productions
Format: 35mm, Breitwand 1:1;66, Schwarzweiß
Length: 88 min

DVD: MGM Home Entertainment Deutschland (synchronisation: German, Italian, French, Spanish / subtitles: French, Spanish, Italian, Dutch), Twentieth Century Fox Spanien (synchronisation: German, Italian, French, Spanish), Twentieth Century Fox Japan (Japanese subtitles)

Blu-ray: Criterion USA (no subtitles), Llamento S.L. (Spanish synchronisation / Spanish subtitles)