All Quiet on the Western Front-2022
Director Edward Berger
Starring Felix Kammerer
Scott’s Review #1,350
Reviewed March 10, 2023
With the escalating situation in vulnerable Ukraine with Russia’s dictator invading the neighboring country, the timing for the release of All Quiet on the Western Front (2022) couldn’t be more perfect.
The clear anti-war message that the film presents is nearly as powerful as when the film was first made in 1930 but the original wins out by a sliver.
The human destruction, loss of life, and futility of battle still resonate nearly one-hundred years later with a very different rendition.
In both a timely and timeless way, the film reminds its audience of the hell that war is with countless battlefield scenes that devastate and scar the main character.
As I asked in my original review- have we learned nothing at all?
The time is 1918 amid World War I. Furious patriotism prompts seventeen-year-old Paul (Felix Kammerer) to enlist in the German Army. He and his peers are duped into believing they will receive a hero welcome and fulfill their duty to the country.
Their perception is shattered as they are sent to the muddy trenches and stinking foxholes with little food, water, or training.
They quickly learn about the horrors of war.
While keeping the terrible message close to heart during my watch of the film, I was nonetheless constantly comparing the 2022 version to the 1930 version directed by Lewis Milestone. Especially intriguing is how a film can be remade so well after many decades.
The remake adjusts the final scene tremendously with mixed results. The powerful ‘butterfly scene’ in which Paul reaches for the gorgeous creature from a bloody foxhole is eliminated.
Instead, a scene nearly the equivalent is offered involving the fate of Paul. It’s more drawn out but resonates nonetheless.
Both are exceptional endings but I’ll forever remember Milestones and neither are happy ones.
Also missed are Paul’s furlough and subsequent visit to his small hometown. Instead of being embraced he is ridiculed and called a coward for questioning the war.
This is a precursor to the sheep-like support of Adolf Hitler by the German people several years later.
However, the remake introduces a powerful musical score with a loud and bombastic drum beat. Its eeriness and unexpected appearances are foreboding and tragic assuring that death is right around the corner.
The cinematography is more modern and slickly created which is beautiful to witness especially in the wintry France sequences. The snow-coated farmland and cloudy skies perfectly encompass the mood of the film.
Enough praise for Kammerer, an Austrian actor. His clean-cut appearance quickly turns waif-like as he is traumatized by one death after another. His piercing blue eyes provide so much depth and ooze pain that it becomes mesmerizing.
He should have received an Oscar nomination for Best Actor.
The battle scenes are not softcore and nor should they be. A heaping amount of bodies are bludgeoned, run over by tanks, self-mutilated, or otherwise torn apart. This reinforces the destruction that war has on lives, especially the young ones.
But the best scenes occur when Paul forms a bond with another soldier. His best friend Kat, played by Albrecht Schuch, has nothing in common with him in ‘real life’. Coming from different backgrounds they would normally not cross paths and yet they become close.
A tender moment occurs when Paul and a French soldier pummel each other only to finally see each other as human beings and a level of kindness emerges. They wonder why they are intent on killing each other.
Just as its predecessor does All Quiet on the Western Front (2022) successfully mixes the ravages of war while peppering examples of friendship and humanity.
Sadistic and brutal the film presents the case for a world that is anti-war and wins out in spades. It’s more terrifying that any horror film because of its reality.
In the end, the staggering numbers of human casualties are listed with somber and quiet end credits.
Oscar Nominations: 4 wins-Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography (won), Best Production Design (won), Best Original Score (won), Best Sound, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Visual Effects, Best International Feature Film (won)