LEARNING GUIDE TO:
ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT
SUBJECTS — Literature/Adaptation; World/Germany & WW I;Age:12+; No MPAA Rating; Drama; 1930; 103 minutes; B & W, Available from Amazon.com.
Description: This is an acclaimed film about the First World War told from the German perspective. The movie is based on the classic novel by Erich Maria Remarque. The 1930 black and white version of the story is better than the 1979 remake.
Rationale for Using the Story: All Quiet on the Western Front shows the effects of the war on the individual soldier, whether friend or foe. It illustrates the horrors of war with specific reference to trench warfare during the First World War. It also shows the drawbacks of unquestioning patriotism. The effect is powerful in promoting an anti-war sentiment.
Objectives/Student Outcomes Using this Learning Guide: Students in either history or literature classes who are reading the book will benefit from the film's interpretation of the novel and will be able to write comparisons of the themes and characterizations presented. Students who are not reading the novel will gain insight into World War I through the vivid imagery of trench warfare as well as through research and writing assignments at the film's end.
Possible Problems: Moderate: This is a war film with hand to hand combat, injury and death. Although there is little gore, the suffering of the soldiers is vivid.
Suggest that interested students read the book! The movie is based on the classic World War I novel of the same name by Erick Maria Remaque. No movie can include all of the incidents, descriptions and character development contained in a good novel. Recommend that students interested in the movie read the book, too. For an extra credit project, students can compare the two versions of the story.
LEARNING GUIDE MENU
WORKSHEETS: TWM offers the following worksheets to keep students' minds on the movie and direct them to the lessons that can be learned from the film.
Film Study Worksheet for ELA Classes; and
Worksheet for Cinematic and Theatrical Elements and Their Effects.
Additional ideas for lesson plans for this movie can be found at TWM's guide to Lesson Plans Using Film Adaptations of Novels, Short Stories or Plays.
SUGGESTIONS FOR USING ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT IN THE CLASSROOM
After the film has been watched, engage the class in a discussion about the movie.
1. When the German school master was trying to motivate his students to enlist in the army, did he say anything that would be different from what would be said by a recruiter for the Allied Armies talking to young men in France, Britain or the U.S.? Does what he said tell you anything about patriotism? Suggested Response: The answer to the first question is no. The answer to the second question is that blind and unthinking patriotism can do a lot of harm. While a person should be willing to sacrifice for the good of his country, just because the call of patriotism goes out, doesn't mean it should be answered. People should think critically about what they are going to do from the moral and historical standpoint.
2. A powerful motif in the book and film is the pair of leather boots owned by Paul's friend Hans. Paul brought them back from the hospital after Hans died. What was the author of this story trying to tell us by focusing on these boots? Suggested Response: Answers will vary: Boots can be seen as an elemental aspect of a "foot soldier" and as such serve to represent the man that wore them and to reduce him to a small aspect of himself. Another possible response is that the soldiers were expendable and that when they died, others would come to take their place, wear their boots.
3. What is the significance of the way in which Paul died? Suggested Response: Answers will vary: Students should be able to see that war is antithetical to compassion, beauty, the natural world and many other things that we appreciate in life. Paul's death symbolically illuminates this point.
4. The film does not romanticize warfare and shows many of the miseries of World War I. Actually, conditions for the soldiers in the trenches were worse than what is shown in the movie. Having seen the film, would you still go to war if you felt that your country was threatened? Describe your reasons. Suggested Response: Answers will vary. Although the film came out prior to World War II, it could be that each generation approaches warfare as if its experience will be different, glorious and survivable.
For more nine additional discussion questions, click here.
Any of the discussion questions can serve as a writing prompt. Additional assignments include:
1. Students who have read the novel can be assigned a comparative essay in which they look at the characters, events and focal points of both the film and the novel and determine which is more powerful in its effects.
2. Write a newspaper account of one of the battle experiences or incidents in the film that clearly reveals the details ordinarily left out of publicized reports on events in wars.
3. Research one of the following topics and write an expository essay, including opinion when properly supported and cited, on the facts you have gathered:
See also Additional Assignments for Use With any Film that is a Work of Fiction and TWM's guide to Lesson Plans Using Film Adaptations of Novels, Short Stories or Plays.
Parenting Points: English as well as history teachers sometimes assign Remarque's award-winning novel to high school students and it is important that your child read the before seeing the film.
Reminder to Teachers: Obtain all required permissions from your school administration before showing any film.
Teachers who want parental permission to show this movie can use TWM's Movie Permission Slip.
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