Monday, October 3, 2016

TODAY'S NUGGET: All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) - A Personal Toll

[Quick Summary: A schoolboy impulsively joins the army, and learns the harsh realities of WWI. ]

I don't like scripts that want to hammer home a "lesson" about war.

This script accomplishes the impressive feat showing the personal cost of war without preaching.  It doesn't hide that war is expensive, exhausting, and stark.

I like how the toll is seen even in the small moments. No guns or explosions needed.

(I do not like that this script is very long. Sigh.)

ex. "WESTHUS: (rising) I'd better get that strap fixed on my helmet.

He picks up a helmet. Detering rises, looks at him, then deliberately snatches the helmet out of his hand.

DETERING: What are you doing with that?
WESTHUS: Hey, what's the joke?
DETERING: Will you let my helmet alone?
WESTHUS:Whose helmet? That's mine!
DETERING: (pointing to another helmet) There's yours, with the broken strap!
WESTHUS: All right. Don't fight a war about it.
DETERING: You wanted to hand me the broken strap, that's all!
WESTHUS: (Drawing back his arm as if to strike) You're crazy!
DETERING: Let him alone, Jaie!

He strikes Westhus, who takes the blow without flinching, looks hard at Detering and fails to strike back. Paul and Kat drag Detering away from Westhus and set him down near the wall. He makes no resistance, and begins to sob.

WESTHUS: He's crazy.
DETERING: Well, what if I am?
KAT: (to Paul) What's the matter with him?
PAUL: (to Kat) He got a letter today. He wants to get back to his farm.
KAT: We'd all like to get back, if it comes to that.
DETERING: A woman can't run a farm alone. That's no good, you know -no matter how hard she works. Here's the harvest coming round again --

Detering suddenly gets up and goes out, unable to control himself."

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: To get across a large concept ("war is hell") without preaching, look to the small moments to show the toll on the characters.

All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
by Maxwell Anderson, George Abbott, and Del Andrews
Based on the book by Erich Maria Remarque


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