Illustration of Paul Baumer in a German army uniform with a red background

All Quiet on the Western Front

by Erich Maria Remarque

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Which advancements in science and technology during World War I were depicted in the battle scenes in the movie All Quiet on the Western Front?

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The most gripping depiction of the devastating effects of technology in World War I, in either film version of All Quiet on the Western Front, is the gas attack, which Paul describes as the "most obscene" weapon of all. The experienced soldiers, including Paul, know to keep their masks on, but one young man takes his mask off too soon in one of the low places where the gas gathers. He suffers the hideous effects of inhaling gas. Throughout the films, and the book, we see the devastating effects of the very powerful long-distance shelling that keeps the men constantly on edge. Additionally, the men are carried to and from the front in trucks, ducking under telegraph wires as they go. Each of these was an innovation specific to World War I. But the most horrifying innovation was the poison gas that billowed over the trenches after a bombardment.

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In the 1930 movie All Quiet on the Western Front, the viewer experiences a number of the scientific and technological innovations that defined World War I.  Specific among these innovations are those pertaining to the realities of trench warfare:  the machine gun, the hand grenade, poison gas, and air-to-air combat, among others.  By illustrating the devastating effects of these innovations in its striking battle scenes, the movie puts the horrors of war on display for the viewer.

The 1979 TV movie loses much of this aspect in its adaptation of the Remarque's novel.  Since the focus of this movie is the character of Paul and his developing negative attitude toward the war.  While this would seem to necessitate displays of the horrors of warfare, the military innovations that characterized warfare in the First World War take on a lesser role than in the 1930 movie.

Both movies seek to illustrate the horrors of war through the very detailed presentation of the different military technologies used during the First World War.  In both movies, the viewer experiences the effects these weapons wrought on the soldiers in the trenches.

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