I chose All Quiet on the Western Front for my artistic representation of war because this is, by far, my favorite war film. This film was released in 1930 and won the Academy award for Best Picture and Best Director (Lewis Milestone). All Quiet on the Western Front explores the tragedy which is called World War 1.
The movie begins in a boy’s school where a man, their instructor (Kantorek), is speaking of the glory of serving in the German army and protecting their country which, of course, all the boys are very enthusiastic about which leads them to enlistment. They are then shown going through boot camp and finally being sent to the “front line”. However, before they even got to their assigned post, one of them was killed. We soon see, however, that this young boy was only the first in a long list of the victims of war. The boys also soon realize that even despite ‘glory’ that war brings, war is full of hardships and down right sickening at times. Food is scarce and death constantly lingers around them at all times… Not to mention, the loss of friendship is always present. Throughout the movie, all of the soldiers seem to have a dedication to their fellow mates. They risk their lives for eachother. They go through hell for eachother. Paul, who is the main character of the movie, is badly injured along with his friend Albert Kropp, and ends up going home on leave for a short time. When Paul arrives home he realizes that, like when he was recruited, the war was glorified and that these people actually have no idea what goes on in war. At the end of the movie we see Paul, who every viewer has grown to love, fall to his demise at the sight of a butterfly, perhaps symbolizing the hope that he yearns for or even his youth.
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This heartbreaking film is the most obvious approach to the questioning of war. Over 8 million people from all over the world died in World War 1, almost 2 million Germans alone, and All Quiet on the Western Front sums up that sadness in a little over that two hours. When Paul goes home after being injured, he is disgusted by the fact that no one understands that war is not the great thing that his professor and his whole home town believes it to be. When he first enlisted, Paul was enthusiastic but war hardened him. War destroyed his youth which I believe is why at the end he wanted to see the butterfly. When I first saw the butterfly at the end, the first thing I thought of was boys catching bugs when they’re younger (since back in those days they didn’t have cartoons and electronics). It’s like Paul is trying to again grasp his childhood that he let go of to feel the glory that men feel from war. He wanted to be a man, and he didn’t realize what that would cost him. All Quiet on the Western Front shows the horror and reality of war without the romanticism, without the joy, without the faith… Because in war, there is no place for things like that. War is brutal and cold and hard.
My mom was a veteran in the Army, and about once a month we make a visit to the VA hospital, and these are the most depressing looking people that you could ever see. Some of these people are missing limbs and have the darkest most in despair eyes ever. These people could tell you about war. And that’s why I believe that All Quiet on the Western Front is one of the most accurate depictions of war, because war is not the courageous, glorious act that so many others depict it to be.