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Memoria e Ricerca

“Le modèle du genre”? Westfront 1918, an (anti)war Film by Georg Wilhelm Pabst (1930)

di Martin Baumeister
in Memoria e Ricerca n.s. 49 (2015), p. 29

The article deals with Westfront 1918, one of the first German sound films and the most important German film about World War One, released in 1930, an adaptation of an anti-war novel by Ernst Johannsen by one of the most prominent directors of Weimar cinema, G.W. Pabst. The film is analyzed in the context of media representations of the war, which rapresented a crucial element of public memory and a central factor in defining the political meanings of the war in postwar societies. The paper discusses the structure of the film plot, its reception in the German and international press and finally the film’s relationship with Johannsen’s novel as well as with its much better known American counterpart, All Quiet on the Western Front, released almost simultaneously with Pabst’s film. For its aesthetic achievements, and for the debate it caused about the political ambivalences of media “war realism”, Westfront 1918 merits to be reconsidered with regard to the “canon”. Key words: Weimar cinema; Georg W. Pabst; Ernst Johannsen; war realism.