War Veterans React to the Realism of Westfront 1918

Inside Criterion / Sneak Peeks — Feb 2, 2018

With his first sound film, Westfront 1918, director G. W. Pabst brought audiences face-to-face with the horrors of the trenches, depicting the fates of four soldiers during the final months of World War I with a stunning level of naturalistic detail. The film has been hard to find in the decades since its 1930 release, but time has done nothing to diminish its visceral charge as an antiwar statement. In the late 1960s, on the fiftieth-anniversary commemoration of the armistice that ended the War to End All Wars, the French television program Les dossiers de l’écran showed Pabst’s film to a number of veterans, both German and French, and gave them a forum for discussion. In the above clip—taken from the hour-long episode, which appears in its entirety on our new release of Westfront—a former lieutenant in the Prussian Guard, greatly moved by the film, makes a heartrending appeal against the industrial-scale barbarity of modern-day warfare.