ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — “All Quiet on the Western Front,” an anti-war film based on the 1929 novel of the same name, is among the 10 Oscar-nominated films this year for best picture. This film awards German director and screenwriter Edward Berger his first Oscar nominations. The historical fiction film is nominated for best picture and eight other nominations for best sound, best original score, best-adapted screenplay, best international feature film, best makeup and hairstyling, best production design, best cinematography, and best visual effects. Berger takes us through the atrocities of World War I in stunning cinematography and sound, truthful acting, and thought-provoking themes.
The first thing to note is that on American Netflix, the film is dubbed, meaning the language of the film is German and the audio has been supplemented with English dialogue. I usually avoid anything dubbed because I thought it would lessen the quality of acting and the overall effect of emotion and discussion. I revoke my original thought as five minutes into the film, I’m already immersed into the story, not even realizing the actors are speaking a different language. Austrian actor Felix Kammerer (Paul) is our protagonist as we join him on his journey fighting for Germany in World War I. Despite the language barrier, Kammerer’s display of emotion speaks for itself. Albrecht Schuch (Kat) provides a well-done performance as Paul’s guide, mentor, and friend throughout their time at war. Daniel Brühl, known for foreign and American films such as “Rush,” “Inglorious Bastards,” “Captain America: Civil War,” and “Good Bye, Lenin!,” shines a familiar face on screen as a German delegate later in the story. It was no surprise Brühl put on a great performance, but Kammerer is the one I feel deserves the praise. His ability to portray real horror, disbelief, and emptiness as a soldier took the film to a deeper emotional level. Overall the acting was impressive but what I found to be the best part of “All Quiet on the Western Front,” was the action and how Berger depicted true events.
The action stays the main focus as it aims to present the war between Germany and France in WWI truthfully. The film begins like its name, quiet, still, and somewhat eerie as we see nature before the war. Gunshots break the silence as the camera pans overhead dead soldiers eventually leading us into the trenches, completely immersing the audience into battle. The “Saving Private Ryan,” Omaha Beach scene comes to mind when watching the opening scene, jumping into intense war-like scenarios right from the start. Through many action scenes, we follow Paul as he runs as if we are his comrade right behind him, or we brace ourselves from the fire as if we’re in the trenches. We know the realities of war given this is not the first war movie, war book, war story provided by actual veterans, or even the first motion picture based on the 1929 book. Somehow, I am still reminded of the emotional suffering and absolute hell it must have been while fighting in a war. A deadly, disturbing, and strong scene in a German bunker reminds me of this. The sound I found to be consistent with the severity of war and death in WWI. A specific three-strung chord is repeated often throughout the film evoking fear within the audience about what’s to come. Within the action and gore is a story about humanity, pride, and irony that asks if it was all necessary.
Paul joins the German army with his friends not expecting the harsh realities to come. Berger displays naiveté and innocence in these boys before their experience and emphasizes the importance of friendship when they are fully involved in the war. Irreplaceable bonds are formed, and the men are no longer friends they’re family. The relationships are hoped to continue as the soldiers hear of an end to the war, but pride and ineffective patriotism get in the way.
An imperative aspect of the film is the comparison between delegates and soldiers. Berger would often juxtapose delegates speaking on the necessity of war and honor while soldiers are killing or being killed in the reality of war. For example, one scene with quotes such as “For God’s sake let’s make peace,” and “dying with honor on the battlefield,” transitions to an active battle scene with members of the German military laying down their lives with such “honor.” Daniel Brühl becomes a trusting character as he adheres to the viewer’s want for peace in the negotiation scenes. As a viewer, you want both the French and German generals to lay down their pride so the men can come home. I appreciate this implementation in parallel with the progression of understanding between Paul and his comrades that war isn’t what they expected. What starts as young men killing to survive, transitions into a question of humanity. A gruesome and uncomfortable scene in the middle of the film utilizes effective sound, emotion, and our moral compass. We see Paul travel through a roller-coaster of morality, accurately showing the toll war takes on its soldiers. Berger develops a strong story based on actual events with an arsenal of diverse camera shots, compelling sound, and effective storytelling.
The nine Oscar nominations for “All Quiet on the Western Front,” are well-earned and I expect this film to win in at least one category. The film finishes with some facts about WWI stating that around 17 million had lost their lives in efforts to gain just a few meters of ground. I found myself to be stricken with thought and gratitude as the credits concluded. You ask yourself, what was it all for? Did anyone really win? Berger’s display of violence, humanity, irony, hope, pride, and nationalism make for a well-curated anti-war film guaranteed to make you feel something. If you’re an avid lover of war films, I would 100% recommend this movie.
House Rating: 4.5/5
If you liked this film, you might like: “All Quiet on the Western Front (1930),” “Saving Private Ryan,” “Hacksaw Ridge,” “Full Metal Jacket,” and “Platoon.” Check out “All Quiet on the Western Front,” on Netflix.