Nothing new on the Western Front has forgotten one thing: its characters

However, in his (excessive!) Two and a half hours of the film the great humble and deadly epic of the novel becomes a tale of landscapes and boredom, looking for a sense of death that is not always found in the clouds, in the winter forests and in the filthy, humid and lifeless countryside (except for the occasional passage of a peasant girl and the farmers also ready to shoot and kill). It is what is defined with a certain arrogance the “splendid photograph” which, however, is of little use here, because it never connects characters and landscapesthe. Basically the unconfessable impression is that it seems that only this is of interest to Edward Berger: the way in which the landscape, its fixity and its pristine stillness, does not care about the death with which it is sprinkled. As the clouds continue to move, the wind to whistle and the rain to fall despite the tragedy crushing these boys sent to die without understanding why and that I cannot avoid the conflict even when the war it’s finishing.

We understand and know little about them. We almost struggle to tell them apart when they have helmets and muddy faces without it being an expressive choice (how nice it would have been, a film by characters all the same because for their command they count for nothing, but it is not so). We just know that they are distant from the end of the war much more than the kilometers that separate them from the places where peace is treated with the utmost contempt for human lives (another detail, that of the upper echelons totally disconnected from the soldiers, which comes from Horizons of glory). The film, there is little to go around it, is terribly Manichaeanexchanges the exasperation of good and evil, for the exaltation of human values, he would like to put titanic virtues on the screen but manages to recall only an ecumenical simplicity that also reduces the great historical figures to very skimpy characters, capable at most of symbolizing the good or the bad, and nothing more nuanced or particular.

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However, this would really be a venial sin if, in the face of a certain schematic nature among the servants of the power and men of good heart, there was also that ability of war cinema to create one great epic. Instead, in the face of pure good ideas (in an initial transition even the sewing machines, in unison make the noise of a platoon of rifles, as if everything were war and everyone, even the seamstresses, participated in the violence of a people who plagiarized the boys), Nothing new on the western front transforms the story into a fairy tale, reserving the right to make it a black tale full of blood when it serves to unleash empathy and pity but always forgetting to establish a meaningful relationship between the viewer and the characters. And in the end, of such a harsh account of what we do with it if it is difficult to empathize What if, even worse, it’s hard to get right to the end?


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