Les Croix de bois (Wooden Crosses) (1932)





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Les Croix de Bois (Wooden Crosses) may well be the most powerful anti-war film ever made; certainly it is the grimmest and most uncompromising. Starting with an impressionistic shot of a gloomy hillside studded with white grave markings, the film delineates the hopelessness and horror of war in such explicit terms that at times it's nearly impossible to watch. Set during WWI, the story concentrates on a handful of French draftees, including an idealistic student named Demachy (Pierre Blanchard). Marching off to war with joyful patriotic fervor, the men are quickly disillusioned by the appalling realities of total warfare. When they aren't enduring ten nonstop days of enemy bombardment, the soldiers must sweat out the horrible realization that their trenches are being mined from underground. Nor are they given any relief during those rare lulls in fighting. At one point, the men are yanked away from a much-needed furlough to march in a victory parade for the entertainment of their callous, fat-cat superior officers. One by one, the men are killed off, until only Demachy remains -- but, tragically, not for long. Such was the impact of Les Croix de Bois, that, when it was shown on French television in the 1970s, a WWI survivor who watched the film for the first time was so overwhelmed by despair that he committed suicide. Generous portions of the film's battle sequences were later incorporated in the 1934 John Ford film The World Moves On and the 1936 Howard Hawks production The Road to Glory. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
Art House & International , Drama
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
Criterion Collection


Pierre Blanchar
as Gilbert Demachy
Gabriel Gabrio
as Sulphart
Charles Vanel
as Caporal Breval
Raymond Aimos
as Fouillard
Antonin Artaud
as Vieuble
Paul Azaïs
as Brouke
Raymond Cordy
as Vairon
Jean Galland
as Le Capitaine
Pierre Labry
as Bouffioux
J.F. Martial
as Lemoine
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Critic Reviews for Les Croix de bois (Wooden Crosses)

All Critics (1)

Countless films declare 'war is hell', but few do so with as much bitter veracity as Wooden Crosses.

Full Review… | March 30, 2015
The Skinny

Audience Reviews for Les Croix de bois (Wooden Crosses)

No matter how well intentioned socially conscious movies may be, they have a tendency to age very badly due to societal norms constantly shifting.(So, relax, those of you who hate "Crash."(2005)) For example, look at the topic of gay marriage. Were we even discussing this ten years ago? War in all of its lunacy and immense waste of human life is sadly the exception. And that is even taking in consideration how much warfare has changed since the gritty "Wooden Crosses" was made in 1932. It starts on a giddy note, as the French populace is excited at the prospect of going to war against Germany in World War I. The movie focuses on one of the enlistees, Gilbert Demachy(Pierre Blanchar), a law student, as he fights alongside a group of other soldiers. As time wears on, their high spirits wane as conditions get increasingly worse and the casualties mount. Oh and did I mention the lice? That is nothing compared to the knocking the soldiers hear which can only mean the Germans are tunneling under them to place a mine. As bad as that may sound, I have rarely seen anything as agonizing as the ending. There can be little worse than that. (Originally reviewed in the blog section on February 27, 2009.)

Walter M.
Walter M.

Super Reviewer


Director Raymond Bernard gives us an unromanticized view of trench warfare in 1932's Wooden Crosses, a film of amazing visual quality. It's a visual quality that borrows heavily from 1930's "All Quiet on the Western Front". The story as well, is heavily influenced by the story of All Quiet on the Western Front, only telling it from the point of view of french soldiers as opposed to german. But unlike the earlier film, I think it's misrepresenting Wooden Crosses to call it "anti-war". The fact that it shows "war is hell" and makes it clear that war isn't fun isn't any more anti-war than any other war film that's ever been made. It's a fairly good war movie however, and has great production values.

Devon Bott
Devon Bott

Plays like kind of a "greatest hits of war movie clichés". One of my least favorites is the one where the rookie gets introduced to the guys, and of course each has their own quirk/trait that they're identified with. Like "this is Joe, the loudmouth of the company" or "and this guy here is Frank, he's meaner than he looks". However, Bernard's filmmaking style is impressive, it appears to be about 15-20 years ahead of its time. He manages some very poetic moments.

Martin Teller
Martin Teller

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