The third rendition of Erich Maria Remarque’s 1929 book describing the mental, physical &
spiritual trauma of German soldiers during the Great War and their isolation from civilian life.
The psychological wounds left behind in this war and depicted in the novel could be considered
a warning at the time and it would not be a surprise to learn that the book and its sequel were
banned in Nazi Germany. The first rendition in 1930 was an Academy Award-winning picture
and the second would not be made until 1979 as a TV Movie.
May, 1917. German teenager Paul joins his friends to fight for their country with enthusiasm and
positivity to bring victory to the Kaiser and the motherland. Our first bite of reality occurs when
our protagonist points out the name that is not his on the uniform being given to him. Only we
know the journey of the uniform, having been stripped off the cold, dead body of a compatriot.
An insight towards the cycle of death that these uniforms would go through, almost a mark of
expiry for the next fighter. The soldiers listen to patriotic speeches and join in on singing for their
nation, drunk on patriotism as they are herded to war in France on the front line.
The Hell of War becomes clearer as these soldiers get closer to the front line and this sinks in as
they are increasingly surrounded by gunfire, bombs and misery. The film’s alternate scenes
follow a familiar face in Daniel Bruhn, as we witness German officials plead with French
generals to come to a ceasefire and save thousands. Some officials want to save face and pride
for Germany with little regard for the soldiers who follow their commands.
The film really is an important take on the lost generation of the First World War focusing on the
belligerents that the mainstream media doesn’t usually consider. We witness one of the great
sequences of combat and the level of effort of filmmaking taken to make the film as gritty and
true to what we thought these soldiers would have gone through at the time. The relief comes
from getting to know the soldiers intimately in their short time of solace between battles. The
horror is captured stunningly and an eerie soundtrack almost forces you to keep your eyes on
the screen to not miss a moment of suffering that in part helped shape the 20th century .
- By Armaan Habib