The Screaming Silence
An interpretive essay on Lewis Milestone’s All’s Quiet on the Western Front
War is rarely what it appears to be. Such an irrational and incompetent institution that it solves little the problems it was meant to end. World War I was a catastrophic war that caused Europe to reel back and try to re-examine as to what can cause such a vile conflict. Throughout Europe, as the war progresses more and more men are needed for the cause of the war machine. As the selected soldiers die in the front lines the ranks of the army grows younger and younger.
In Germany young men were sent to the front lines to do battle with the French soldiers over the conquest of the Western Front. These soldiers endure dehumanization situations even before they actually hold a gun and shoot their enemies. During the crash course training they are forced under grueling situations in hopes they can survive long enough to do battle. They were forced to march in mud constantly in order to build up their strength and they were given sparse equipment to fend for themselves. Once in the battle they are forced to live in underground trenches for the whole of battle and to face inconsiderable odds for hopes that just maybe they can capture the land.
But even when Paul Baumer and his friends are put under grueling and inconceivable situations there were still scenes that dramatize an appreciation for life and love for the environment and of nature. Paul loved nature and he loved drawing pictures, especially of birds in which he even got in trouble in class because of it. Also in the movie Fredrich Mueller, an old farmer from the countryside, showed an extreme affection for horses and he cried as the French committed a surprise attack and the cavalry’s horses all died.
Paul also realized that the war is never-ending war with treacherous technologies that shouldn’t have been invented. Gas attacks were the extremes of such warfare. When the sound calls the soldiers would rush to put on their gas masks and run away from crevices and trenches as that’s where the gases collect. Machine guns also evened the odds of the oncoming onslaught rushes. With just one gunman the opposing forces can maul down an entire infantry at once. While the war did propel the development of airplanes, their use in the war was disappointing. Observational planes and bomber planes made the war a tactical chess that resulted in both sides losing.
During the war Paul also happens to meet a French soldier in a bombed out crater. This encounter holds great significance at that it’s for the first time throughout the horrible war that Paul gets to meet his enemies first and hand and with trained instinct Paul’s first reaction was to kill him, but after seeing the French soldier still alive made Baumer realize the true ramifications and the aftermath of death and killing. And with the French soldier’s challenge to death Paul can only greet it with sympathy. Through the exhausting night Paul stayed with soldier and in the morning as the soldier finally died Paul received a newfound revelation that deep down they’re all human, and the only reason they’re killing each other is because they were told to.
With this theme, All Quiet on the Western Front is clearly an anti-war film and story. It portrays the rawness and equally brutal and horrifying effects of war. Before this whole hostility, Baumer was a student eager to learn but after his enrollment in the army everything changed. When Paul and his friends were being shipped to the battlefront they saw the horrifying victims of war coming back. Paul constantly mentions the aimless objectives of war even with the massive strides in technology there were still sorrowful mistakes.
Erich Remarque made an extremely story that deals with war and all its results on all of humanity. Lewis Milestone was able to bring all the brutality and beauty out of the story. With brother fighting brother and kinsmen fighting kinsmen Paul Baumer illustrates the brutal situations people had faced and that all of humanity should learn and avoid in the future.