Films and the First World War

Once these various elements have been identified the final section of this discussion will compare and contrast the films.All Quiet on the Western Front is a reasonably faithful film treatment of the anti-war novel of the same name by First World War veteran Erich Maria Remarque. It follows the military career of Paul Baumer who enlists as an idealistic student and abruptly finds himself thrown into the mind-numbing morass of the trenches on the Western Front.Joyeux Noel is a Christmas movie with a twist. Based on actual events it documents the 1915 Christmas Truce that saw German troops decorate their trenches and barbed wire entanglements and singing Christmas carols across No Mans Land on Christmas eve. On Christmas Day thousands of troops on both sides of No-Mans Land left the trenches and exchanged gifts, food cigarettes and alcohol. As in the film, higher-ups were furious, and the organizers of future truces (notably Easter 1916) were also punished.Grand Illusion moves from the trenches to a prisoner of war c It documents the French prisoners repeated attempts to escape and the tragic plan that finally works for two of them but costs the third his life.Paths of Glory details a futile attack on the Anthill, a German defensive position, by the 701st Regiment of the French army led by Colonel Dax (Kirk Douglas). The attack fails and ends with executions including that of Corporal Paris who was selected by Lieutenant Roget, principally because Paris knew him as a civilian and dislike him then as he dislikes him now.All of the films focus on class divisions and class divisions as they persist in wartime between the men in the trenches and the officers, often aristocrats, living in comfort behind the lines. On the other side of the coin, the films highlight the realization among the men in the trenches.