Armistice Day: Films on the First World War

Armistice Day: Films on the First World War

Today is the centenary of the First World War, better known as The Great War. Triggered by the assassination of the Austrian archduke, Franz Ferdinand and his wife on June 28, 1914, by Gavrilo Princip, a Bosnian revolutionary who sought to end the Austro-Hungarian rule of the region, the war claimed nearly 20 million lives.

Both during and after the war, though, cinema continued to flourish, with many filmmakers showing various perspectives of the War, and although the war is little more than a chapter in human history now, these films show the horrors the combatants faced and the stories that came out of the trenches.

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

Based on a Spanish novel by Vicente Blasco Ibáñez, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is known as one of the greatest anti-war cinema of all time, along with Stanley Kubrick's Paths of Glory.

The film followed an extended family, in which the patriarch of the family openly favoured his French son-in-law over the German, leading to intense jealousy from the latter and leading the family to split and move away into their respective countries just before World War One breaks out.

Shoulder Arms

Charlie Chaplin is one of those prolific actors whose works have lived long after they passed, and somehow managed to stay relevant even in today's world.

Shoulder Arms had Chaplin's persona, the Tramp, play a soldier who goes "over the top" during his time in the trenches and goes behind enemy lines to take the fight to them.

A Farewell to Arms

Set as a romantic film in the backdrop of the bloody conflict, A Farewell to Arms saw a forbidden love blossom between Frederic Henry, an American ambulance driver and Catherine Barkley, an English nurse and how external factors force them to stay apart even as the war rages.

The film received Academy Awards for Best Cinematography and Best Sound and is considered to be one of the best adaptations of Ernest Hemingway's novels.

All Quiet on the Western Front

One of the more unique World War I films as it showed the German perspective of the War, All Quiet on the Western Front was considered one of the most realistic accounts of the horrifying conditions soldiers faced in the trenches. Hailed as one of the greatest anti-war films, it was also banned by the Nazi Party during Hitler's reign.

Paths of Glory

One of the other greatest anti-war films of all time, Paths of Glory saw Colonel Dax, the commanding officer of French soldiers who refuse to continue a suicidal attack, attempt to defend them against a charge of cowardice in a court-martial.

Kubrick received much praise for his film, an adaptation of a novel by Humphrey Cobb, but during its early days, it was subject to censorship and criticism due to its anti-military tone

La Grande Illusion

This film has the honour of being labelled "Cinematic Public Enemy No. 1" by none other than the Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbles himself. As for why he hated it so much, perhaps it has something to do with how the film showed how human dignity could triumph in the face of the great perversion of humanity that World War I was. Jean Renoir crafted a masterpiece that showed how war is a futile exercise that could lead to no good.

And to end this, lest we forget, that humanity did briefly triumph in the midst of the Great War during Christmas 1914, when French, British and German soldiers ceased firing in respect to the season and even played Football with each other.