'All Quiet on the Western Front' review: A Gut-Wrenching Take on War
Interestingly, Erich Maria Remarque’s 1929 novel of the same name, on which the film is based, has had an earlier film adaptation in 1930 that won an Oscar.
Published: 06th November 2022 05:00 AM | Last Updated: 05th November 2022 03:57 PM | A+A A-
All Quiet on the Western Front is Germany’s submission for the Academy Awards under the Foreign Film category, and its visuals offer enough evidence why it’s a favourite to win. One particularly affecting stretch shows uniforms being stripped off dead soldiers, washed in cauldrons of crimson water, and the bullet holes getting stitched, before they are sent as fresh uniforms for new recruits.
When a soldier questions why his uniform has another person’s name on it, he’s lied to. It’s a film that makes you reflect on the nature of war, on the deceit that’s an inherent part of it, and the loss of innocence it causes.
Interestingly, Erich Maria Remarque’s 1929 novel of the same name, on which the film is based, has had an earlier film adaptation in 1930 that won an Oscar. This latest iteration though is its own beast, thanks to the gut-wrenching visuals and intense exploration of the notion of war. It distinguishes between the soldiers who fight the war and the suits who declare it as they feast on exquisite food and wine.
The film follows the story of Paul Bäumer (Felix Kammerer), a German teenager who, along with friends, enlists in the army, believing it to be a duty of honour and glory. Even as the young men begin to realise their folly, we are introduced to German official Matthias Erzberger (Daniel Brühl, who incidentally played a German war hero in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds), who attempts to persuade the German High Command to begin armistice talks. At one point, he says, “My son was killed in the war. He doesn’t feel any honour.”
While many war films have often toed a careful line between the inevitability and the futility of war, this film makes its anti-war stance felt on several occasions. Director Edward Berger goes to great lengths to show the physical and mental agony of soldiers, without the crutch of traumatic night shots, grand sets, or thousands of extras. Instead, the film focuses on the intimate and the personal. It’s not all bleak though. Some scenes show camaraderie and humour, making it harder when the inevitable deaths happen.
The film is a forceful, bloody reminder of how wars always lose more than they win—and it won’t be a surprise if it bags an Academy Award for its efforts.