“You are the life of the fatherland, you boys!”
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
Response to Peary’s Review:
In Alternate Oscars, Peary agrees with the Academy in naming this the Best Picture of the Year, and elaborates on what makes it so enduringly powerful. He writes that while “the boys enthusiastically enlist en masse, all hoping to be heroes”, “once in uniform, they realize that there is no glamour to war” — “instead, there are dictatorial officers, endless marchs, hunger, fatigue, nostalgia for home, rats in the trenches, mud and rain…” Indeed, there is “no heroism. Instead there is confusion, terror, hysteria, madness, amputations, [and] meaningless deaths. All that matters is survival, and those who survive are either insane, without limbs or sight, or unfit to return to civilization where old men still champion wars.” Most chilling and heart-stopping among many powerful moments is “the battle scene in which Arthur Edeson’s camera pans while charging soldiers are mowed down by machine-gun fire” — a scene “as impressive as it is terrifying”, and which “becomes even scarier when soldiers break through and jump into the trenches for hand-to-hand combat.” As Peary adds, “Significantly, not one shot is heroic or glamorizes war; instead we see how vulnerable all soldiers are and want to close our eyes until the fighting stops.” This almost unbearably impactful film will quickly convince you that war really is hell.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)