In the west, nothing is new is about the horrors of war, and it depicts those horrors graphically. I won’t detail every moment of violence here; Instead, let’s cover the subject more broadly, while also touching on perhaps some of the film’s toughest moments.
People – countless people – are shot and killed. Others are sliced or stabbed, with axes, bayonets and daggers. The movie wants to do the carnage we see personal: Hand-to-hand combat here doesn’t feel like war so much as outright murder. (The film contrasts these horribly brutal scenes with moments spent with the German commanding general, who sits by the fire and gorges himself on delicacies. “It’s been 50 years since there was a war,” he said to a deputy, wiping the grease off his pants. . “What’s a soldier without a war?”)
However, World War I introduced a legion of new ways to kill, and we see them in action. Soldiers get run over by tanks, and we see their bodies reduced to meat and spurting blood. Others are immolated by flamethrowers. Dozens of bodies are found in a building, victims, we are told, of a gas attack. Grenades are thrown and find their marks. Artillery shells explode, sending people flying, alive and dead. Buildings collapse on soldiers still alive. Some make it, some don’t.
Corpses (mainly of men, but also of horses) lie everywhere. One of Paul’s first tasks is to participate in the German version of identity discs to identify the dead: he finds one of his friends, his face mutilated by an explosion, a leg missing at the knee. The soldiers walk through pools of blood. Half of a human carcass hangs from a tree, 30 or 40 feet in the air. It was blown there, we are told, by artillery fire.
But that’s not enough carnage, apparently, to drive the point home.
In one harrowing scene, a French and German soldier is seen fighting in the crater left by an artillery shell. The German finally stabs the Frenchman several times, but the man will not die. Instead, he chokes and gurgles with his blood until the German inserts dirt into the man’s mouth. It’s still not enough: for minutes, maybe hours, this little struggle for life goes on, the German holding his ears while the Frenchman gurgles, until the German decides to save man instead. He looks at bloody wounds, wipes dirt from his face and around his mouth. Only then does the Frenchman breathe his last. The German finds his wallet and a photo of the man’s wife and daughter.
In another scene, an injured man (with terrible leg injuries) is given food and a fork. He quickly stabs himself several times in the neck with the utensil, bleeding as his friends try to save him and another soldier, cold eyes, looks at him, as if to say that such atrocities are as common as mosquitoes. .
Returning to the armistice talks, Erzberger and others talk about the casualty rates of the war: About 40,000 soldiers had died in the previous weeks before the talks began. When a German looks at the armistice and is appalled at the terms offered – that Germany would be no worse off if it followed the war to its conclusion – Erzberger adds: “Except with a few hundred thousand more dead . “