Collectibles: All Quiet on the Western Front

I used to collect World War I Imperial German and U.S. arms and militaria. I’ve watched and read many books on the fighting that took place and studied the material culture. Over the past year or so I have been hearing about an upcoming film adaptation of the 1929 book All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque, a German veteran of World War I. Seeing some of the trailers recently on social media, it looked like it was going to be pretty good, and I couldn’t wait for its release. It had been made into a film in 1930 and I’ve watched it numerous times over the years. I can see why it won five Academy Awards when it came out and to me it still stands the test of time today. 

Over the weekend I sat down to watch the much-anticipated new adaptation on Netflix. I tried to go into it with an open mind and then compile my thoughts after I watched it. A hard thing to do as many of you know who study martial material culture. But I did it the best I could.

So overall I enjoyed it as entertainment and there are a lot of historically accurate things. I thought the uniforms and equipment were correct for the most part. The scenes where they show the uniforms being taken off the dead and wounded, washed, mended, and reissued was thought provoking. As someone who really likes the Mauser Gewehr 98 infantry rifle, I noticed none of them had a cleaning rod, especially in the scene where they discussed keeping their G98s clean. A minor detail but a simple one to fix. The battle scenes were well done and gave you a sense of the brutal and horrific combat, but you could notice some of the CGI. As mentioned, I liked it as an entertaining movie.

But as far as a comparison to the book, it seemed off. While they added some things that I think enhanced the story, a lot of important things were missing, and it just didn’t have the same vibe as the book that the 1930 adaptation seemed to capture very well. The book really pushed the indoctrination of the young students before they went off to war, but the film didn’t give as much of an emphasis on that. They even changed the ending and how the main character dies. You could see what point the movie makers were trying to make, however again, it was a major alteration.

Anyway, I would recommend that those who have an interest watch the film and enjoy it for what it is. But if you haven’t read the book or watched the 1930 version, do that also. I think you will notice the differences and might even agree that it could have been better if they followed the book a little closer. Just my two pfennigs.  

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