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.
I unlocked the door to 12th story apartment overlooking downtown Cleveland. I threw down my keys and coat then turned on the light.
The local gangster, Gregg Poppovich, was pointing a gun at me. “What do you want with Art McGarth, Jack?” he asked as he lifted a stogie to his mouth.
“I’m investigating his death, Gregg,” I said. “You wouldn’t happen to know anything about that, would you?”
“Of course not,” he replied, “I just didn’t want you pointing the finger at me.”
“Now why would I want to do something like that?” I asked while I studied him over.
Gregg laughed and put the pistol away in his holster. “I didn’t suppose you did,” he said, “you’re too smart for that.”
“But you must know something. Or else you wouldn’t have broken into my apartment.”
He laughed some more. “Of course,” he said, “that’s why I’m paying you a visit. It’s neither organized crime nor police corruption. There’s a madman loose out there, Jack. I don’t know much more than you, but watch your back.”
“Thanks for your concern, Gregg. But I have the Lord’s protection. Besides, why kill McGarth? He must have had some connections.”
“Not McGarth,” Gregg said, “but the two prostitutes. They’re disappearing all over the city. I’m telling you, Jack, it’s a Jack the Ripper kind of situation.”
“A serial killer?” I laughed, “in a city like Cleveland? Never heard of such a thing.”
“I’m not crazy, Jack. I don’t believe in that silly God of yours, but I do believe in the Devil. And he’s here in this city. So you better watch yourself.”
“I’ll pray on it,” I said, “and I’ll pray for you and your Salvation. May the Lord guide you towards the Light.”
Gregg left and I took a shit. All that scotch and nicotine was running through me. I absolutely destroyed that toilet.
When I walked out of the bathroom, Sally was lying on the bed. “Jesus Christ, Jack!” she said while puffing on a cigarette, “someone light a match!”
I closed the door and loosened my tie. “You shouldn’t use the Lord’s name in vain,” I said. “What are you doing here? I should really change the locks to this place.”
“Just paying you a visit,” she replied while hiking up her skirt to expose her gorgeous legs. “Have you found out anything about Art McGarth? Seeing as we’re both investigating his death.”
“His murder appears to have been collateral damage,” I said. “Other than that, I know nothing.”
“Are you sure?” Sally asked as she unbuttoned her blouse.
“Sally, I don’t know what you’re expecting to happen here. You know I don’t know what to do with a woman. I’ve never had sex!”
“I could show you,” she said as she lowered her shirt to expose her shoulders.
“No thanks,” I replied, “I don’t believe in sex before marriage. Now please leave.”
After she left, I straightened out the bed, loaded one round into the revolver of my .38, spun it, pointed it at my head, and pulled the trigger.
“Thank you, Lord, for always watching out for me,” I prayed. Then I went to bed.
I always sleep better after a game of Russian Roulette.
It looks like we’re actually getting somewhere. But without a plot, conflict, hero, or villain, the story simply becomes another character study, therefore making the main thrust of the story “man against himself” or some pretentious bullshit like that.
That being said, let’s close this thing out…
After returning home from my weekly STD checkup, there was a package on my doorstep. It was addressed to my neighbor, but I took inside and opened it anyway.
In the box was a stuffed teddy bear and a letter from someone named “grandma”. I thought that was a stupid name but continued reading anyway. The letter said:
Grandma and grandpa love you very much. We hope that you feel better soon.
Grandma and Grandpa
I put the contents back into the box and poured a drink. I was supposed to start taking medication for something called “syphilis” but I threw that shit into the trash.
“Maybe I should return the box,” I thought. But I wasn’t so sure. I lit up a cigarette, shot up heroin, took a bump of coke, played a round of Russian Roulette, then taped up the box.
As I was laying the box on their doorstep, my neighbor opened the door. “Get the fuck off my porch,” he said.
“This is YOUR package asshole!” I replied. “UPS wrongly dropped it off at my house.”
“Why should I believe you?” he asked after he pulled out his .38. “You’ve played your drums, lit off fireworks, and engaged in target practice with your shotgun at ungodly hours of the night. You’ve also ding dong ditched my ass, used my WiFi, and played peeping Tom on my wife. Well guess what PAL! You’re now on MY property and am well within MY right to blast YOUR ass!”
I raised my hands. “Now calm down John,” I said. “We’re both sensible adults. We can talk this out.”
“No,” he replied. “I’M the sensible adult. You’re an asshole.”
John then fired his .38 into my gut and I laid there bleeding out in his front yard. He picked up the package and opened it.
“Well I’ll be a son of a bitch,” he said, “you finally did something right in your life.”
I lifted my head up while holding my guts in. “Please call an ambulance John,” I said.
“Sure, I’ll get right on that.” John then looked up into the sky and smiled. “It’s nice finally getting some peace and quiet around here,” he said.