Based on the novel by Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front is a film from the perspective of German soldiers fighting trench warfare against the French during World War I. The pacifist sentiment of the film is laid out in a title card in the first frame, which explains that the film is not an accusation, a confession, or an adventure, but that is simply trying to tell the story of a generation destroyed by war. I think that it was a good idea to make this clear at the very beginning, as it prepares the audience for the type of film to follow.
In the initial scene, uniformed German soldiers march through the town to the sound of music played by a military band. The crowds on the streets cheer and wave flags. From inside a German schoolroom, a class of boys watches the procession as their Professor lectures them on the virtues of war and their responsibility to their country:
You are the life of the Fatherland, you boys.
You are the iron men of Germany ... Now our country calls. The Fatherland needs leaders ... The field of honor calls you.
The patriotic speech proves persuasive as the entire class agrees to enlist. I don't think the Professor ever served in the military and I know it is his duty to get these boys to enlist, but I don't think that he is right in glorifying the war. I realize that every country wants to believe that they are winning the war and that they are justified in their role, but I still don't believe that schools should recruit young men for military service.
As the boys arrive at camp to begin training, they discuss fighting and killing the enemy. That sentiment quickly...