Based on the novel Vier von der Infanterie by Ernst Johannsen, The Westfront 1918 tells the story of four German soldiers of very different personalities and social backgrounds who serve together on the French front during the last year of World War I. The happy Bavarian is unshakeable and optimistic. Karl from Berlin has been home on leave, but finds another man in his wife’s bed and is glad to return to his comrades. The lieutenant only knows his duty and seems not to be interested in anything but his duty. The fourth man is a student who has fallen in love with a young French woman named Yvette, to whom he must bid farewell as the company moves on.
The war brings a gruesome end for all four men. The student is killed in no man’s land. The Bavarian is badly injured during a reconnaissance mission. The man from Berlin dies in a field hospital with the accusation “we are all to blame!” on his lips. The lieutenant, whose upright bearing made him appear invulnerable, loses his countenance and his sanity and is sent to a field hospital as a mental wreck. —German Film Archive
Born in Bohemia to Viennese parents, director G. W. Pabst made only one American film in his career, yet became the darling of U.S. critics and movie historians for a handful of brilliant silent works. Pabst studied at Vienna’s Academy of Decorate Arts, then embarked on a theatrical career in 1906. He worked as a stage director in Europe and briefly in New York with a German-language company until World War I. Back in Vienna in the early 1920s, Pabst was one of the vanguards of the experimental theater movement. This led to an interest in the less-confining vistas of film. Establishing himself as a movie director in 1923, Pabst made his mark by turning out productions of pessimistic realism, intermixed with unstressed impressionism. He directed Garbo in A Joyless Street (1925), then helmed the pioneering Freudian drama Secrets of a Soul (1926). Pabst helped create the “Louise Brooks mystique” by casting the expatriate American actress in two of his most elaborate (and most heavily censored… read more