As the centennial of the outbreak of the First World War approaches, films about the conflict are being re-examined. Perhaps the most famous film about the First World War is Lewis Milestone’s All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), based on the novel by Erich Maria Remarque, which is often hailed as the quintessential anti-war film because of its depiction of the brutality and horror of trench warfare.
Tom Brook has published a new article on anti-war films in the BBC. “The World War I centenary is giving films that oppose conflict a renewed currency,” he writes. “In London this week an anti-war classic, Stanley Kubrick’s 1957 picture Paths of Glory set in the trenches of World War I, is being screened at a special film season curated by Sir Peter Jackson. In the US this summer several anti-war classics are being shown in a special series at the American Film Institute , including Jean Renoir’s 1937 picture Grand Illusion, which conveys the view that war is futile.”
Image: a still from Stanley Kubrick, Paths of Glory (1957).
The French film director François Truffaut once allegedly remarked that “There’s no such thing as an anti-war film.” Other filmmakers have expressed similar sentiments on the difficulty or impossibility of creating a film that truly opposes war. Brook argues that “There are different ways to interpret this remark but it’s widely agreed that Truffaut was suggesting that movies will inevitably glorify combat when they portray the adventure and thrill of conflict – and the camaraderie between soldiers.”
Tom Brook’s “Is There any Such Thing as an ‘Anti-War Film’?” appears in the BBC online.
Northern Illinois University students in HIST 390 History and Film: War in Film will find this article useful.