Tropic Sprockets / All Quiet on the Western Front

By Ian Brockway

Edward Berger’s “All Quiet on the Western Front” is unsparing and harsh, and not for the faint of heart.. Though jarring, it is immersive and riveting with not a single superfluous shot. Though it is difficult to watch, it is a master painting rendition of World War I. [For showtimes and trailer check]

Paul (Felix Kammerer) is idealistic and sneakily joins the German army with his friends Kat (Albrecht Schuch) and Franz (Moritz Klaus). Bodies are decapitated and chopped up. Black coffins litter the ground like sorrowful exclamation points. Paul at first thinks he will quickly return to civilian life, but then he is nearly hit with bombs, shrapnel and mustard gas. War is not ending anytime soon with 700,000 Germans dying over a three-week period in 1917.

In Germany, Major Von Brixdorf (Sebastian Hulk) is a bald imperious bureaucrat. He resembles a figure in the painting by Otto Dix as a Pinscher waits for cooked chickens under the table. He is far removed from the plague of physical pain and mental anguish.

In the bunker, Paul is attacked by armies of giant black rats. In the trenches gargantuan walls of metal march across him in the form of tanks. Somehow Paul survives, looking like a militarized zombie, the uber undead, one half of his face scorched black.

The cacophonous disease of war is contrasted by the tranquility of nature. The film’s cinematography by James Friend is spellbinding as is the score by Volker Bertelmann, which places the film into the realm of visceral suspense and horror.

War makes monsters of men. By the end of the war on November 11th at eleven a.m., 40 million people had died.

The literary movement of surrealism in 1918 tried its very best to end the concept of war and endless killings, yet wars continue to rage.

This film is in the tradition of Wolfgang Petersen’s “Das Boot” (1981). Both films highlight war as an angry absurdist force, a regressive and raw state that turns human beings into hostile mush.

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