Sunday, June 23, 2024

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Not so quiet on the western front

Nicholas Barber is right to air significant objections to loaded inventions in Edward Berger’s remake of All Quiet on the Western Front (Germans are right to be incensed by All Quiet on the Western Front, 27 February).

Erich Maria Remarque was invalided out of the army in 1917, but used his experiences to portray the life of a young soldier throughout the war, up to its end, when he portrayed the German army as retreating. Berger’s remake, however, goes out of its way to emphasise that the German army was holding the same lines of four years previously and, in case we hadn’t noticed it, tells us the same in a closing caption.

There were doubtless places where this held true, but it does not reflect the general military situation in the autumn of 1918, when the German army retreated from much occupied territory.

Few in Britain or Ireland would have needed reminding in 1928 – or in 1930 when the Hollywood version was released – that British troops had liberated the city of Lille in France.

Alas, in this country we have favoured monuments to much more questionable colonial victories, and so remembrance is left to fictional creations.

This film, as Barber observes, sets up the “stab-in-the-back [by civilians] myth” in a way that would have delighted the National Socialists, and would have appalled Remarque, who had to flee the Nazis.
Roger Macy

• Nicholas Barber has provided a valid critique of Edward Berger’s recent film adaptation of All Quiet on the Western Front. One other key omission in the film was Paul Bäumer’s return home, and the alienation he felt when confronted by a total lack of insight by civilians into the realities of trench warfare.

Lewis Milestone’s 1930 film version went one step further, depicting a speechless Paul in front of a class of eager youngsters when encouraged by his old teacher to describe daring action in the trenches. The remake added nothing to the novel or the original cinematic version.

Ian Ferguson
Thornton Dale, North Yorkshire

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