All Quiet On The Western Front
Dir: Lewis Milestone
Scr: George Abbott
Phos: Arthur Edeson, Karl Freund
Ed: Edgar Adams
Prod Co.: Universal Pictures
Cast: Louis Wolheim, Lew Ayres, John Wray, Arnold Lucy, Ben Alexander
USA / 1930 / B&W / DCP / English, French & German / English Subtitles / 136min
Widely considered the greatest anti-war film of all time, Lewis Milestone's adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque's novel is a scathing depiction of senseless conflict and wasted life. The film follows German schoolboy Paul Baumer (Lew Ayres) and his impressionable classmates, as they are coerced into enlisting by rhetoric-spewing teachers and sacrificing their lives for the Fatherland.
In the trenches they face inhuman conditions, disease and imminent death, learning there is no glory in war, only wasteful slaughter. Away from the front Paul encounters ignorant, hypocritical elders, who insist he knows nothing of Germany's greater struggle or war's true meaning.
Universal took a huge gamble adapting a bleak novel devoid of heroism, adventure or romance, but Milestone's efforts created some of cinema's most realistic battle sequences. All Quiet On The Western Front opened to rave reviews and box office success, culminating in Oscar wins for Best Picture and Best Director. Overseas the film had a more mixed reception and was banned in Germany, where the Nazis labeled it "a Jewish lie".
Over the ensuing decades the film has been cut, truncated and re-dubbed countless times as distributors, censors and political institutions attempted to twist the film's pacifist message into propaganda. It was altered so much that Milestone's original version was long thought lost, until an unaltered print was discovered in Goebbels' private collection. In a final ironic twist, the man who fought hardest to destroy the film ultimately aided its preservation.
Restoration by Universal Studios. 4K pin-registered scanning. Colour-correction, scratch removal and mono sound editing applied.
||Cinema, Hong Kong Film Archive
Post-screening talk with Long Tin
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