And what was Shakespeare thinking, giving all his Italian and Danish (and so on) characters poetic English dialogue? Man, very few productions of "Hamlet" even have the actors speaking with a Danish accent.

But seriously - that's not a flaw. In fact, considering that the movie was made for an American audience, it was actually a very smart move to have them talk in English and without accents. Like it or not, foreign languages are a barrier to understanding and empathy for many people, and a decision to shoot this in German would have made the film less powerful than it is. By speaking English, audiences who might reject subtitled films were forced to empathize with a group that had been their enemy less than fifteen years earlier - by giving the characters everyday English dialogue it gave the impression that these people were, indeed, quite human, and that, in most cases, they weren't all that different than the average American in the audience. They had the same concerns, the same fears, the same hopes…

It does get more tricky when different characters would, in reality, be speaking different languages (that is to say, if we had an English soldier and a German soldier among the main characters) - but since that's not the case here, it's entirely reasonable that the characters speak English, as we the audience are given insight, are made witness of a world and experience that we may otherwise never have known.

In other words, having foreign characters speaking something other than their native language is an entirely acceptable stylistic device, one that had been established for a long, long time before film even came around. That device is used to brilliant effect here.

So a dogmatic "Oh no, they're speaking something other than their native language and that ruins the film" approach is entirely wrongheaded, and will lead you to reject some of the greatest films of all time (as well as some of the greatest works of theater, opera, and literature.) Those looking for that sort of verisimilitude are going to want to turn to something other than film, or literature, or theater, or pretty much any art form that contains the spoken word.

9 years ago


The mother of all anti-war movies and probably one of the best. Very intensive.

6 years ago

Camille Deadpan

This movie reminded me of what Stefan Zweig mentioned about WWI in his Die Welt von Gestern (1942). The movie is so sad and shocking and realistic and so amazing. Also it left me speechless.

6 years ago

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