This is not the first time that the famous novel of Erich Maria Lemarque has been turned into a film. There is a 1930 and a 1979 version as well. Especially the latter many people will know. I am not sure if I ever saw it myself.
We follow a group of young men from Northern Germany who -towards the end of Word War I- are eager to go the the Western front in Southern Belgium / Northern France to help the German advancement towards Paris. What these adventurers do not know or realise, is that that Western front has hardly moved for a long time, yet costed millions of soldiers to die on both sides.
After a peptalk the new recruits are shipped to Belgium where their dreams are immediately shattered by the brutal reality of actual war. Being welcomed by the sight of fallen soldiers, being bombed on their way to the trenches and also within these trenches, main character Paul soon starts to loose friends.
In the film you can see the brutality of futility of war. Men being canon fodder when sent out of the trenches towards the trenches of the French with nothing more but a bajonet and and a few grenades running straight towards the machine guns of the other side.
I do not understand the English title of the book and films “All Quiet On The Western Front” as it is not quiet at all, but there sure is “nothing new” with not moving front lines and endless death. Since nothing indeed happens, the German contemplate a treaty to prevent further loss of lives. The demands of the French are harsh, but the Germans decide to agree anyway. The ceasefire time is set, only for a hotheaded German general to call for one final and completely unnecessary attack.
Besides war scenes, we also follow the soldiers in the time between combat. How they have to live, how they try to find more food than their rations allow for, the things they talk about, the way they mourn the endless loss of lives…
Indeed, a penetrating look into modern warfare.