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The Relevance of All Quiet on the Western Front Today

All Quiet on the Western Front

A Look Latest Remake of the Classic 1928 War Novel

All Quiet On The Western Front is a story that has continued to resonate throughout generations since its original release in January 1929. Connecting readers to the horrors of the First World War, this now classic anti-war novel by Erich Maria Remarque has been adapted into the 2022 film directed by Edward Berger. The picture premiered at Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and is distributed by Netflix. The movie chronicles the experiences of one soldier, Paul Bäumer played by Felix Kammerer, who has enlisted in the German army during the late days of World War One. Having grown up listening to nationalistic propaganda since the onset of the war, Paul and three other school friends believe they will find great adventure and glory by enlisting in a cause that is already lost. They quickly, however, come face to face with the brutality and harsh realities of this war. 

This 2022 version is eerily prescient, being released in the opening months of the first European land war since World War Two in Ukraine. This third film adaptation of this classic war novel follows the 1930 best picture winner and the 1979 made-for-television adaptation. Notably, the 2022 release of All Quiet On The Western Front is the first German adaptation of the novel, the prior two films coming out of Hollywood despite the author himself being German. 

Continued Relevance

The biggest reason  All Quiet On The Western Front continues to be revisited is that  war and the impact it has on society are sadly still very relevant and attractive to today’s film audiences. Films have depicted war since their inception, with the first war films being made during the Spanish-American War; they were called “actualities” or small documentary clips. By using modern film production and editing advances. This film shows graphically the true horrors of man-to-man combat in a way the prior films could not. Many of the problems presented to the director of this movie remain consistent through the ages, such as how can the brutality of war best be depicted on screen. 

While no single movie can genuinely capture the gravity of war, All Quiet On The Western Front is a worthy two-hour and twenty-eight-minute attempt. In light of its relevance with war once again visited on continental Europe, this film’s release has taken on a new meaning with today’s generation. The writers Lesley Paterson and Ian Stokell brought the rights to the film back in 2006. While unknown at the time the time of release during an actual war so similar to the story of World War One trench warfare undoubtedly helped propel this film to new levels of success. Nominated for nine Academy Awards, including best picture, All Quiet On The Western Front ultimately won in four categories, Best International Feature Film, Best Original Score, Best Production Design, and Best Cinematography.

All Quiet on the Western Front

Period Piece Perfection

From the opening shot, it is clear that All Quiet On The Western Front’s cinematography is superb. The film opens with a quiet scene in the woods. Safe underground in her den, a mother fox nurses her kits. The camera pulls away and transforms this tranquil and safe scene into a violent battlefield raging above. Countless soldiers lay dead and dying on the surface. The forest has been destroyed, leaving the soldiers exposed and with no place to hide.  

This practice of juxtaposing relatively quiet behind the front-line scenes with violent battlefield scenes continues throughout the film. It’s an emotional roller coaster that keeps the audience on the edge of their seat. In some ways, the quiet moments are more terrifying than the fighting. For instance, the scenes where uniforms from dead soldiers are washed and reissued to new soldiers being sent to the front to die remind the audience that the next soldier’s fates are largely already sealed. Seeing the massive piles of bodies, bloodied uniforms, and rows of caskets is a reminder of the industrial scale of death in a modern war. The film demonstrates the reality that material supplies can sometimes be reused, but the soldiers and their life stories cannot. 

Bringing Back Remarque’s Characters in the 21st Century 

All Quiet On The Western Front would not be the film it is without the incredible acting on behalf of the cast, particularly Kammerer, who plays Paul. Upon watching, it is hard to believe that it is Kammerer’s big-screen debut. He is unsurprisingly not new to acting, having worked extensively in theater. Kammerer perfectly captures Paul’s transition from a naive schoolboy to a war-torn soldier. Nowhere is this more evident than when he finds himself fighting in a foxhole with a French soldier. Paul stabs him to death only to lay there with the dead body pleading for his forgiveness afterward. 

This reminds the audience that he isn’t a hardened soldier, but a still young boy forced to face the reality of war. To take on such an emotionally and physically complex role for his first major film is quite a feat, one that Kammerer pulls off exceptionally well. 

Beyond Kammerer’s fantastic lead performance, Daniel Brühl portrays Matthias Erzberger, the German state secretary, who has become disillusioned by the long-running war. In a defining scene, Erzberger and the rest of the German delegation request a ceasefire from the French during negotiations to end the war. Brühl, in this scene, displays his skill as an actor as the tension in his jaw and demeanor are perfectly articulated, making it nearly impossible not to feel uneasy.  

Was Another Adaptation Needed?

All Quiet On The Western Front is not just another film adaptation but a film that truly honors the source material by establishing it in a modern context. This adaption not only does just that but also does things differently enough that someone familiar with the book will be taken in new directions. This is often a difficult balance for films to strike, but All Quiet On The Western Front manages to pull it off. 

All Quiet On The Western Front is currently available to stream on Netflix. 

All Quiet on the Western Front

All Quiet on the Western Front (2023) Official Netflix Trailer

Source: Dead Talk Live

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In addition to writing for Dead Talk News, Stella has also been published by The National Organization for Women, The Aurora Philosophy Institute, Phase Zero Magazine, and more. She has loved film since she was little, particularly old and obscure films. Stella currently attends The New School in New York City.