Erich Maria Remarque’s magnum opus “All Quiet on the Western Front” has already been adapted twice for the big screen. Once in an Oscar-winning silent film in 1930, and once in a less critically acclaimed British film in 1979. It seemed a tragedy that perhaps the most important war medium to come out of the 20th century had never has not been translated into its original language, German, but the tragedy no longer exists, as the last days of October produced the Netflix-backed German adaptation directed by German director Edward Berger, known for the brilliant “Deutschland 83” series.
This adaptation is heavily focused on the horror of war, and with that, main character Paul Bäumer, played by Felix Kammerer is less of a character, and more of a general vessel to show the widespread horror of millions of young people during the war. . Paul has very little history, but the tender moments with other soldiers, Katczinsky in particular, and the horrors that Paul goes through, help the viewer to establish an intense connection with Paul, perhaps more than “1917”, which uses the same ship tactic. . One thing for sure, though, is that Paul is definitely more fleshed out than Blake, Schofield’s sidekick in “1917,” who made it look like Sam Smith and Frodo Baggins had a kid.
The moments of battle, and the entire film, are wonderfully shot with tragic beauty, with brilliant use of color and fog to create a sense of large-scale yet claustrophobic nature and make the moments of hand-to-hand combat intense and horrible. Berger merges beautiful imagery and gore to create an intense and unforgettable watch. This is coupled with the brilliant acting of Paul in particular, who wonderfully uses his eyes to show the horror, something that would have been seen all along the front lines.
There’s a major departure from the source material with Daniel Brühl portraying a German diplomat, which while it doesn’t add much to the overall story, does provide some good insight into attempts to stop unnecessary death , something directly contrasted by the detached politicians and the general. leading Paul’s regiment, which prolong and add to death. However, this addition of Brühl’s character leads to significant moments when Paul returns home on leave to be cut.
Yet despite that big cut, the film still has a mammoth 148-minute runtime, which drags on into the second half. The pacing issues are reinforced by the lack of action, and when there is action, it can become repetitive.
Repetition is sometimes used very well, with shots and actions sometimes repeating themselves to show the constant cycle of fresh-faced soldiers being sent to die, again showing the apathy of politicians and generals who were unaffected by the death of soldiers.
Die-hard fans of the novel will also be disappointed with the ending, which seems stuck on the end, and the writers tried to make the ending more meaningful, showing the final seconds of the war, instead of showing the sense of randomness. like in the novel.
From a technical standpoint, the film is simply stunning, with excellent cinematography paired with striking music. The cinematography is so good that it could see an Oscar nomination for Best Cinematography as well as Germany’s nomination for Best Language Film. And the best part, it can be viewed for free or at no additional cost. Being on Netflix, existing members can watch whenever they want, and those interested can get a Netflix trial. However, the writing is really the film’s disappointment, and I wanted more of it myself, because the technicalities can only cover so much. All Quiet on the Western Front deserves praise for its unflappable presentation of the war, but one wonders what the plot would have been like had Edward Berger had full control of the script. Yet this hard-hitting and unforgettable adaptation, despite its flaws, is nothing short of Note-able.