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All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) + Frank Strobel and ensembleKONTRASTE

Tuesday, 15. May 2012

All Quiet on the Western Front
Director: Lewis Milestone
Writer: George Abbott, Maxwell Anderson, Del Andrews, C. Gardner Sullivan, Walter Anthony
Based on: Erich Maria Remarque’s novel
Cast: Lew Ayres, Louis Wolheim, John Wray, Arnold Lucy, Ben Alexander, Scott Kolk, Slim Summerville
Part of: Film and Music Cycle in the Konzerthaus
With music by: Manfred Knaak, conducted by Frank Strobel, played by ensembleKONTRASTE
[There are quite a few version of this movie, apparently. The one I saw was the 145 minute silent version*.]

Plot:
Paul Bäumer (Lew Ayres) is a young soldier in World War I. Spurred on by his class teacher, he and his class mates volunteered their services, but only little time later there numbers are already substantially reduced. That Paul is doing rather well for himself is mostly due to the seasoned soldier Kat (Louis Wolheim), who has a knack for organizing things. But war is still war.

The movie was very well made and interesting, maybe a tad too long. I did not like the accompanying music, though – it was a little too percussion-y for my taste.

The film is really excellently cast and made. Not only the special effects – though they were very good – but especially the writing was fantastic. They really managed to incorporate all the background info from the book without having to resort to infodumps in just a few scenes. I liked that a lot.

The only thing that didn’t work out so well was the way they introduced the minor characters. For some reason I could barely keep the soldiers straight and kept confusing them with each other – and that even though I read the book, knew about them all before and usually really have a good head for faces and names.

But while that was a bit unnerving, it wasn’t too bad. My major point of annoyance was the music. At best, it only achieved “not disturbing” status, but most of the time, it didn’t even get there. I’m really not a fan of these percussion thingies, with whispering etc. and that was just like that.

Still, I managed to ignore it most of the time and then I really enjoyed myself a lot.

Summarising: Very well worth your time, but try different music or the talkie version.

*It would be quite interesting to compare it to the 85 minutes talkie… Maybe I’ll do that at some point.

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