Submitted by Julio M

1 votes 2

Short pooper:
Paul (Felix Kammerer), having been the only one to survive of: his High School friends who enlisted with him -Albert (Aaron Hilmer), Franz (Mortiz Klaus), and Ludwig (Adrian Grünewald)-, and middle-aged Kat (Albrecht Schuch) and Tjaden (Edin Hasanovic), both of whom he met in the battlefield; and already hardened and weary from all the carnage and combat, is bayoneted and killed by a French soldier during the last stand ordered by General Friedrichs (Devid Striesow), mere seconds before 11:00 a.m., when, historically, the Armistice would happen, ending the War.

Longer version:
The bulk of the film centers on the two days immediately prior to what marked the Armistice -the total cease of all combat on the Western Front- and the end of World War I, right after Government Official Erzberger (Daniel Brühl) convinced the High Command to negotiate a ceasefire, thus preventing further futile German life losses.

On the morning of September 10, the day before when the Armistice historically took place, the German Front takes a brutal beating from the French troops, complete with tanks, flamethrowers, and a massive air raid. In the middle of this chaos, both Franz and Albert are lost. Paul makes a sustained desperate run for his life and finds himself fighting with a French soldier, whom he savagely stabs and kills, only to feel remorseful and demoralized when he helplessly watches the man die and, upon checking through his pockets, discovers he had a family and used to work as a typographer. Meanwhile, we see the German High Rank learn of the recent abdication of the Kaiser and be cornered into unconditionally signing the agreement to the Allied terms; we also see what appears as a hypocritical contradiction in Friedrichs enjoying a peaceful, succulent dinner while supposedly lamenting the state of things -as a jab to how the ones who toyed with the fates of those in the trenches were hardly ever, if at all, in the trenches themselves-.

Paul reacquaints with his unit and finds Kat and Tjaden -the latter being severely wounded-. They are celebrating what already seems to be the end of the War. Tjaden gives Paul that perfumed scar Franz carried everywhere and laments that, since it looks like he will lose a leg, he will not be able to work as a Policeman after the War. To comfort him, Paul and Kat bring him a ration of the soup being given as a meal to everyone; in a moment they both briefly turn away, Tjaden commits suicide by jabbing himself repeatedly in the neck with a fork.

On November 11, the Armistice is made official and set to begin at 11:00 a.m. Believing the conditions to be safe and still feeling hungry, Kat wants to return one last time to the farm where he stole the goose from before, and goads Paul to come along. They narrowly escape from getting shot by the farmer, with some goose eggs, which they gleefully share and eat raw. Kat tries once more, but is ambushed by the farmer’s young son and shot, later dying of his wound as Paul tries to haul him back for medical attention.

Determined to obtain “one last victory to return home with glory”, Friedrichs dupes the remaining -and very worn-down- men into attacking the French troops, who are themselves celebrating in their trenches. Despite how secretively they are come upon, the French react swiftly enough and respond to the attack; a massive brawl ensues, with both sides sustaining losses. Paul manages to wound and kill many French soldiers and, then, comes to a crossroads with another soldier, falling with him to the inside of a bunker. As Paul stands, frozen in fear, another French man comes from behind and spears him with a bayonet, mortally wounding him. He exits the bunker and walks around in a daze, at the same time as the Armistice comes into effect, the fighting stops and the entire front falls silent.

Later, as Germans come by the French bunker, a young soldier -who, coincidentally, had been previously assisted by Paul – is commissioned to collect belongings from the bodies of any German soldier he finds. He walks around, undertaking the task, and, surprised, comes across the muddy body of Paul, retrieving his tags and Franz’s scarf off him.

The movie ends with a lingering shot of Paul, lying dead in that trench. Title cards inform that, by the end of the armed conflict, in 1918, the Front barely moved forward, despite the fact that over 3 million soldiers died in it while trying to gain barely a few hundred of meters of terrain at a time; and the toll of human losses resulting from the War overall rounded 17 million people.

02 hours 28 minutes