Monday, February 20, 2012

Westfront 1918: Vier von der Infanterie

Finally got to see the excellent G.W. Pabst World War One film, Westfront 1918 / Vier von der Infanterie (1930). This would be ideal for something like the Great War and the 1920s class I occasionally teach. Add it to the short list of superb WWI films, especially when combined with their equally superb source books -- all of them banned or suppressed for years, even for decades in some places, and not just by Nazis and other fascists: Lewis Milestone's All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), Erich Maria Remarque's novel Im Westen nichts Neues / All Quiet on the Western Front (1928-1929), Ernst Johannsen's novel Vier von der Infanterie (1929), Stanley Kubrick's Paths of Glory (1957) and Humphrey Cobb's novel Paths of Glory (1935).  (n.b. For the air war, check out John Guillermin's The Blue Max, 1966, based on Jack D. Hunter's novel The Blue Max, 1964).

Here, Yvette and Der Student take cover during artillery shelling in a French village, the kind that's still happening in Syria right now, among other places.  

Several powerful scenes occur in, under and between the trenches. Nasty, brutish and horrifying violence, punctuated by a doomed comraderie. There are also wrenching homefront scenes, and entertainment for the troops is served up as a pitiful though realistic interlude. 

Overall, the sound quality is strangely affecting, given that Westfront 1918 was G.W. Pabst's first foray away from silent films and into the sound era. A slight muffled delay in artillery reports gives them an added terror when they're finally heard.

The most prized things in Westfront 1918 -- aside from keeping one's body and mind intact -- are coffee, booze and food, whether on the Home Front or the Western Front.

Today's Rune: Signals.

[p.s. Note how the image way up top is a reverse image of the one at bottom. Salutes are traditionally made with the right hand,
so . . . you can guess which one is "wrong."]


Cloudia said...

Never knew this film, but love old film always, Erik

Aloha from Waikiki
Comfort Spiral

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Charles Gramlich said...

Did you ever read Willie Heinrick's WWII books. Excellent stuff. Cross of Iron is my favorite. said...

"...keeping one's body and mind intact -- are coffee, booze and food, whether on the Home Front or the Western Front."

As a W.W. II survivor,and frequently bombed--like with incidiaries and thousand-pounders, I have always worried why I have always been with that trinity of palliatives.

Heh. Now I guess I know.

jodi said...

Salutes to you, Erik! If I watch that type of violence, I have horrible nightmares. You know me-it's all rainbows and unicorns!