In the film, All Quiet on the Western Front, the story of young Germany in the World War is told. The film portrays the harsh reality of war, with both sentimental and graphic images that depict the horrors for young soldiers, and its many disappointments. Throughout this film, the theme of the isolated young soldier is prominent, especially with regards to the short and long term consequences felt by those involved.
The film is particularly fascinating because, in nearly every sequence shown, over elaboration is avoided constantly. Seeing the transition in the young soldiers provided a new perspective, as well. In the beginning, all of the young soldiers are thrilled with the possibility of enlisting and joining the military; however, they are quickly disillusioned, as scenes of hunger, fear, and disappointment are shown. At one point, they are even killing rats in a dugout, due to their hunger. When the shells annihilate their underground dugouts, it was sad to see them so scared, hearing their cries of fear and the sounds of ammunition. Though the film was black and white, it does an excellent job in portraying the war and its events, and also in illustrating the disenchantment that the soldiers feel as their hopes and dreams of becoming mighty heroes are quickly shot.
The film brilliantly encapsulates what it means to be in a war, no matter the side that the person is on. Regardless of who one serves as a soldier, what country one is from, war is war, and the film captures that sentiment. Young, healthy men are reduced to animals in this film: a theme that is not uncommon in such events throughout history. As the majority of people today have not experienced war in any way, nor gone without, people seem to think of war as a time to be a hero and show one’s dedication for their country. This point was illustrated at the beginning of the film, when Professor Kantorek gave a speech about serving in the Army and “saving the Fatherland.” The young men were quick to jump at this opportunity, as war is often so romantically portrayed. But soon after, their training commences, where they find that they have been reduced to mere lowly soldiers, and not necessarily humans with needs.
One of the most prominent themes in this film, which ties in directly with the causes and impacts of war, is the theme of the young soldier’s isolation. The generation portrayed in this film revolves around the youth of Germany, who have been propelled into war not by themselves, but through their nationalistic elderly. This is all for a cause that they actually have little to no stake in, which quickly transforms them into desensitized figures, as a result of the brutal war they must face themselves. So often throughout the film, the characters depict a kind of numbness in which they cannot feel or go through the natural emotions of humans. If the soldier actually did allow himself to feel anything, he may go mad or die much sooner. Thus, the soldiers appear to make light of the war they are in, and become more practical instead of sad or sentimental.
This event manifests itself when Paul goes home, where he feels even more disconnected to reality. He has difficulty connecting with his family and friends, as he has repressed emotions for so long. Paul also cannot seem to comprehend just how uninformed everyone is on the actuality of war, and sees his old professor making the exact same speech that he once heard, but to a new crop of young men that are now so different to who he has become. Like the majority of the younger young soldiers who enlisted with him following their school graduations, Paul is unable to recall what life was like before he joined the military. Additionally, Paul cannot seem to envision his own future not, as his adjustment to the military has been so encompassing. In this way, the impacts of war catch the young soldiers in a difficult no-man’s-land between the unforeseeable future and the increasingly distant past.
The impacts of war are even more substantial to Paul and the others, as they feel betrayed and lied to by their nationalistic elderly, and everyone else who glorified the war to them. Seeing this side of the war and its effects are both depressing and illuminating to the viewer, as the war’s ramifications go much further beyond the immediate effects, such as injuries, death, and loss. The young soldiers are upset and disappointed not by their own experiences, but also by their country’s poor and uninformed view of the war. Paul discusses this with Kat at one point, and how people are unable to understand the futility of the war. Thus, the causes and impacts of the war are far-reaching for the young soldiers, and affect them in ways that they could have never imagined or predicted.
In summary, the film, All Quiet on the Western Front, provides a different perspective on the World War by showing the stories of the young men involved. The theme of the isolated young soldier is portrayed consistently throughout the film, as well as the futility and harshness of war. Additionally, the short and long term consequences of war are shown through the boy’s trials, such as their disillusionment with the war, and their feelings of profound betrayal towards their overly nationalistic elderly. War, it seems, does little for the futures of those involved, and only results in pain and disappointment.