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Comparative Essay on “All Quiet on the Western Front” and “Saving Private Ryan”

The author of All Quiet on the Western Front, Erich Maria Remarque and the director of Saving Private Ryan, Steven Spielberg, use various literary and filmic techniques to portray the devastating effects of war. Through the use of different techniques, both authors show the accurate hatred of war, the loss of innocence, youth and ideals in the young soldiers, and how the soldiers form bonds of comradeship and friendship during the hardships of war.

In All Quiet on the Western Front and Saving Private Ryan, Remarque and Spielberg portray the true terror of war. Both texts show the soldiers suffered both terrible physical and psychological trauma. Remarque portrays this with a young recruit having “collapsed like a rotten tree.” This simile shows that he had the appearance of “calm” and health, but he is in terrible turmoil and fear on the inside. In contrast, Spielberg portrays psychological trauma with a close-up of Miller’s shaking hand throughout the film.

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Miller’s shaking hand indicates that his psychological state is deteriorating, and more frequent shots of his hands throughout the film show it is getting worse towards the end. Both texts also display the horrific consequences caused by war. Spielberg shows this through the first scene of the landing on Omaha Beach; after the massive battle, the camera pans over the beach where many dead bodies just litter the beach and are also seen in the water. However, Remarque portrays this through his description of the French attack, which was explicit and graphic “his body drops clean away and only his hands with the stumps of his arms, shot off, now hang on the wire.”

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Through written techniques and filmic techniques, both Remarque and Spielberg show that the soldiers are changed forever by the experience of war, become like beasts, and have a disconnection from home and ordinary life. For example, during Saving Private Ryan, Spielberg shows that war changes soldiers into “beasts” and they lose their humanity. This is portrayed in the scene where the German soldiers are heading towards the bridge, and some of the soldiers are forced to use hand-to-hand combat – it’s kill or be killed in that situation. Nevertheless, Remarque shows that the soldiers become like beasts in All Quiet on the Western Front when Paul explains how in the thick of battle the soldiers have “become like wild beasts…as Death is hunting [them] down” and in their desire to save themselves they are filled with “ferocity” and turned into “God only knows what devils”.

Also, in All Quiet on the Western Front, disconnection from home and ordinary life is present in the novel. Remarque portrays this when the soldiers are sitting around talking amongst themselves, and Müller asks Albert, “what [he] would do if it were suddenly peacetime again?” but there is a certain air of unreality about the possibility of achieving these dreams. In comparison, Spielberg shows this in the scene where everyone’s talking about what they did before the war, and miller reveals that he was a teacher, but Miller’s job at home as a teacher is far removed from his captain’s role in the war.

Both Remarque and Spielberg show through the use of techniques that the soldiers formed bonds of comradeship and friendships among each other. In All Quiet on the Western Front, Remarque shows that the soldiers form close bonds that give meaning to a futile and terrible experience. Kat and Paul share a goose, and this scene captures the close bond of soldiers, “We don’t talk much, but I believe we have a more complete communion with one another than even lovers have…we are two men, two-minute sparks of life; outside is the night and the circle of death”. Similarly, Spielberg shows the bonds of friendship and comradeship in Saving Private Ryan.

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After the scene when Ryan is found in the village, Miller approaches him and tells him he is going home. Ryan refuses to go home and insists on staying with his comrades. In Saving Private Ryan, in the scene where the soldiers are in the church, they are making anecdotes and exchanging anecdotes about home. This is a comfort for them in the chaos of war. So through the use of literary techniques and filmic techniques both Steven Spielberg and Erich Maria Remarque show that in the war there is a loss of innocence, ideals and youth amongst the soldiers, how they form bonds of friendship and comradeship in a somewhat chaotic environment and just depict the true horror and nature of war.

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Comparative Essay on "All Quiet on the Western Front" and "Saving Private Ryan". (2021, Sep 29). Retrieved January 30, 2023, from