In this study I use Henri Desagneaux’s World War I diary as the focal point for soldiers’ experiences in the trenches, I compare this to films about World War I that attempt to display these experiences. This study is limited to my investigation of these sources: A French Soldier’s War Diary 1914-1918 by Henri Desagneaux, Shoulder Arms directed by Charles Chaplin (1918), the book, All Quiet on the Western Front, by Erich Maria Remarque, the film All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) directed by Lewis Milestone, a remake of All Quiet on the Western Front (1979) directed by Delbert Mann, and 1917 directed by Sam Mendes in 2019. Some of the main themes I focus on are soldiers’ relationships with their high command, quality of life in the trenches, and the concept of liminality which I borrow from the field of anthropology. I conclude that while films can capture these themes at a surface level, their focus is on action and telling an entertaining story. The films fail to capture the mundane experience of life in the trenches which can be seen in Henri’s diary.


Hettinger, Madonna




European History | Military History | Other Film and Media Studies | Visual Studies


World War 1, Diary, Trench, Film

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2021 Brendan Burke