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13 Best Quotes from All Quiet on the Western Front (1979)

Based on the German novel by Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front is an English language TV movie adaptation set in World War I. Despite the television release, the 1979 adaptation has an epic, cinematic quality about it, thanks to the large-scale scenes in trenches and bombed villages, as well as the main character’s poignant narration. Paul Baumer (played by Richard Thomas) is a young German soldier who enlists to fight for his country. At the beginning of the war, he and his classmates are filled with idealistic, patriotic ideas about Germany and warfare, and these ideas are reinforced when they attend a rigorous training camp in preparation for battle.

Over the course of the war, Paul and his friends come to realise that much of the information they have been fed was propaganda. An older veteran, Ernest Borgnine’s Stanislaus Katczinsky (affectionately called Kat), is a key player in the boys’ disillusionment. Kind and patient, he treats them like people rather than soldiers, and helps them learn the harsher truths about war. Ironically, Remarque’s book was banned in his own country during the Second World War, which now gives the story an added layer of authenticity and urgency. Here are the best quotes from the 1979 film adaptation.

  1. “You still think it’s beautiful to die for your country. The first bombardment taught us better. When it comes to dying for country, it’s better not to die at all.”
  2. “And our bodies are earth. And our thoughts are clay. And we sleep and eat with death.”
  3. “In the training camp, they filled you with fancy information on how to be a soldier. We’re going to work hard to forget all that. I’ll teach you practical things. Like how to put your diapers on in the front lines.”
  4. “Shoot the wounded horses! Shoot them! Shoot them, can’t you? Shoot them … What have they done? They haven’t done anything … It’s wrong killing horses.”
  5. “They brought us delicious Edammer cheese. We eat and drink of course but there is no joy in it because they always feed us like this before they send us into hell.”
  6. “How long is it? Days, weeks, months, and years. Attack, counterattack, and the dead pile up. Winter, summer. The days are hot and the dead lie unburied. The shells will bury them. But when the wind blows towards us it brings the smell of blood, which is heavy and sweet.”
  7. “I didn’t want to kill you. But you just jumped in here like that. What would you have done? It’s just I’d never met you before like this face to face. I just saw your rifle, your bayonet, grenades. If we threw all those away we could be brothers. But they never want us to know that, do they? They never want us to know. We each have mothers, fathers, the same fear of death. The same pain. The same everything. Everything. Forgive me, comrade.”
  8. “Be careful with these uniforms, boys. They have to be handed down to the next bunch of heroes that get reviewed by the Kaiser.”
  9. “Kat, why do you think we’re in this war?”
    “Protect the Fatherland.”
    “What are the French fighting for?”
    “Protect the Motherland.”
    “And who’s right?”
    “Whoever wins.”
  10. “Can you imagine that little peacock (Himmelstot) getting a medal from the Kaiser?”
    “He behaved like a true German soldier. He ran ahead when he was told to run ahead. And he ran back when he was told to run back. The only thing he didn’t do like a German soldier was die.”
    “Do you think that’s what we’re fighting for? Just to die?”
    “Do you know what we’re fighting for? Does anybody know what we’re fighting for? Does the Kaiser?”
  11. “I used to live in this room. All my things are here, all my books. My beloved books. But they no longer speak to me as they used to, for I am no longer what I was when I lived in this room. I am a soldier. My business is not reading; it is killing. My knowledge of life is limited to death.”
  12. “Out there all men think as I do; there’s no argument about the meaning of life because it has no meaning.”
  13. “He was talking. Ten minutes ago. We were talking.”

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