I begin my Dial M for Movies blog with a dissection of ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’.
In particular, the use of hats.
I have screen capped several moments in AQoTWF where characters raise their hats. If one considers each entry not as a separate entity but as a collective intent by the director, then you can begin to draw comparisons between them.
At the films beginning, a postman is called over towards frame. He raises his hat, celebrating the farewell of the troops as they go to war. He has so much hope that all will be successful.
”War is War ” the barber tells him. (Worth noting that it is a man associated with the ‘head’ of the soldiers that makes that comment)
Before they even begin their fighting, the school kids, having just agreed to enlist, (some because of peer pressure), celebrate by raising their hats and swaying them triumphantly.
The scene , set in their school classroom, can be noted as an expression of all the students losing their grasp on knowledge.
Now compare that with this moment later in the movie, a soldier in the trenches, having stabbed the enemy, he raises his helmet with his gun, to test if there is still gunfire outside of his bunker.
It’s a smart move. Completely the opposite of the previous screen shot, where the students hats in the air emphasis their naiviety.
Returning home, Paul, is allowed to take his hat off. This is a mark of respect to the place he is at. The home he grew up and the values his mother entrenched in him. There is no fear in taking his hat off in this environment.
The famous last show of AQoTWF has the soldiers, from an earlier scene, walking away looking back over their shoulders. Their faces expressing the pity of war.
The last recognisable soldier’s face we see has his hat raised higher up his forehead than all the other soldiers in this scene.
It is a subtle hat tip, of a soldier saying goodbye.