All Quiet On The Western Front, 2022.
Directed by Edward Berger.
Starring Felix Kammerer , Albrecht Schuch, Aaron Hilmer, Moritz Klaus, Edin Hasanovic, Adrian Grünewald, Thibault De Montalembert, Daniel Brühl, and Devid Striesow.
A young German soldier’s terrifying experiences and distress on the western front during World War I.
Erich Maria Remarque’s anti-war novel All Quiet on the Western Front has been adapted several times over the years, with the 1930 version winning Best Picture, followed by a memorable television film in 1979. Both of these versions were in the English language, but this latest take from Netflix and director Edward Berger is the first in the novel’s native tongue, and Germany’s entry for next year’s Oscars.
As with the novel, the film follows young disillusioned German soldiers fighting some of the most brutal battles of the First World War, with the bulk of the film set in 1917-18 in a storyline mirrored with the efforts of France and Germany to strike an armistice. This film unflinchingly captures the absolute horror of war and makes for an often uneasy watch across its two-and-a-half hour run time. It feels like essential viewing, capturing something few war films have managed to with the sheer scale of loss of life, lack of hope and desperation.
The battle sequences in both the trenches and No Man’s Land are some of the best put to film, replicating the more brutal segments of the likes of Saving Private Ryan or 1917. If less showy than some of Roger Deakins’ work on 1917, there is still a haunting visual beauty to this film that adds to the desolation and sense of despair, capturing the mud soaked trenches and body strewn fields. Meanwhile, Volker Bertelmann’s urgent and harrowing score ranks amongst one of the finest of the year, helping to soundtrack the action and building a sense of dread as it becomes clear these young men are in way of their head.
While on the long side, the film is so kinetic, it rarely feels its run time, lurching from one nightmare to the next ,and while it is not all easy viewing, this is hopefully a film that will be shown to educate future generations on the sacrifices made and brutality of the First World War. While not necessarily as performance driven as some other war films, it captures the abject horror and fear these soldiers are feeling and the young actors in the battlefield all give committed performances. Felix Kammerer’s Paul has a youthful innocence along with his other conscripts that is quickly knocked from them, while the most starry name attached to the project is Daniel Brühl as politician Matthias Erzberger.
Very few war films have felt as visceral and urgent as this, painfully capturing the worst of humanity with little in the way of hope. Many of the classic WWII films have a gung ho, adventurous spirit, a far cry from the blood stained, haggard depiction here, which is reminiscent also of Stanley Kubrick’s Paths of Glory.
Having an all German cast helps separate this from other versions of the story and gives the German side to some of these conflicts and the efforts to secure an end to the conflict, while intercutting the film between the young men being sent to their doom and the older ones plotting shows the bureaucracy of the war and is an angle fresh to this take on the story.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★ ★ ★ ★