Propaganda: Innocence and War on the Western Front

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Clay Chastain 15 October 2008 Propaganda: Innocence and War on the Western Front All Quiet on the Western Front (1979) is an award-winning remake of the movie of the same name (1930) and is based upon the classic German novel released in 1929. This version, as well as the other versions, follows the life of a German boy in World War I and his exploits as a soldier. The movie shows the hardships of war in graphic detail, using both blatant and symbolic images to reinforce the strong underlying anti-war message of the presentation. This remake was released a time when the United States’ was finished withdrawing from Vietnam, the country’s first military defeat. Society was concerned with war still, but not active in it. Socially, the movie was assumedly well received for its anti-war message, as indicated from its many awards. The original book’s “commentary was a reflection of postwar political and emotional investments” (Eksteins, 1980, p. 358), similar to the 1979 remake which was released after a large-scale war. In terms of media messages, All Quiet on the Western Front (1979) is a classic example of anti-war propaganda. While violence and death are common elements in the film, the real propaganda message comes through during the slow progression of the protagonist Paul Baumer from a boy into a hardened soldier; the film warns of the loss of innocence and the crime that war inflicts on a boy's humanity, forever restricting his ability to regain his role as an average citizen. In this paper, the transformation of Paul Baumer and its effects will be critically analyzed to show the relationship to the overall anti-war propaganda message the filmmakers intended to produce. Throughout the film, Paul becomes increasingly more distant from his school days, eventually leading to his inability to cope with civilian life. Clearly, the most profound anti-war

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