My man Paul Schrader is a truth bomb machine.
While I haven’t watched the latest iteration of All Quiet on the Western Front, based on what I’ve seen from other war films, I largely agree with his assessment.
In fact, the only REAL anti-war WAR film I can think of is The Deer Hunter. While it does depict Robert DeNiro torching a guy with a flame thrower (in what I think is it’s most out of place scene), replacing the horror of war with several rounds of Russian Roulette is about the only time I’ve seen filmmakers deprive the audience of the spectacle of battle. The ending, I think, should be taken ironically; we use patriotism to mask our grief.
(I’d also say that Stanley Kubrick’s Paths of Glory might be a true example of an “anti-war WAR film)
In my view, the reasons why movies have trouble maintaining the guise of “anti-war” is because film is fundamentally a visual medium. When movies are confined to “showing and not telling”, it’s almost impossible to not become spectacle.
And war is the ultimate human spectacle.
Understanding this, the only time a film can become truly anti-war…while simultaneously depicting war…is if it becomes a dark, dark comedy; almost to the point where it goes over the heads of the less sophisticated.
At least this is how I’ve always interpreted Apocalypse Now.