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Over the Top and into the Wire: WWI on Film

Wednesday, August 27, 2014
7:00 p.m. All Quiet on the Western Front
Lewis Milestone (U.S., 1930)

New 35mm Print!


Erich Maria Remarque wrote in the preface to his novel, "It will try simply to tell of a generation who, even though they may have escaped its shells, were destroyed by the war." Lacking any gestures toward patriotism or glory, any exploitation of spectacle, Milestone's film remains one of the boldest statements ever made against the cruelty and futility of war. In Germany, 1917, seven enthusiastic schoolboys leave their village to enlist in the army. Brutalized and disillusioned in training, they are posted to the French front, where further horrors await them. Then, further disillusionments: the soldier home on leave is now a stranger. Begun as a silent, the film contains extraordinary tracking shots that have often been taken for "actuality" footage; some overtly pacifist material was cut soon after release. This restoration brings this important film back to audiences in a version closer to the original than at any time since 1931.

—Judy Bloch

• Written by George Abbott, based on the novel by Erich Maria Remarque. Photographed by Arthur Edeson. With Louis Wolheim, Lew Ayres, John Wray, Ben Alexander. (143 mins, 35mm, B&W, From Universal Pictures)