(out of 5)
Original title: Les Croix De Bois
The degradation of war is felt strongly in this powerful film by Raymond Bernard, sort of the French answer to All Quiet On The Western Front. A troop of French soldiers man a trench in World War I, battling not only the enemy but their own emotional resistance to the war in an effort to survive long enough to see their homes once again. Their journey takes them from the front on their journey towards home at the end of the war as they are devastated by their experiences and barely have any humanity left in the end. A terrific ensemble of actors (including the great Charles Vanel) bring these characters to life and never let them feel like cardboard stereotypes, while Bernard’s camera work impresses with its technical prowess so early in the life of sound cinema in France. For imagery it can hardly be beat, though the narrative isn’t wholly captivating even when the emotional content is.
Directed by Raymond Bernard
Produced by Jules Kruger, Rene Ribault
Production Design by Jean Perrier
Film Editing by Lucienne Grumberg