The Reel Review

B

Paul, an idealistic, 17-year-old German, initially is thrilled to be fighting alongside his buddies in the waning months of World War I. But he soon discovers the harsh realities of trench warfare when they all end up as fodder on the front lines, in this Netflix film adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque’s iconic 1928 anti-war novel.

Edin Haasanovic, Aaron Hilmer and Adrian Grunewald in All Quiet on the Western Front.

This third film adaptation – after the Best Picture Oscar-winning 1930 film and the 1979 version starring Richard Thomas (The Waltons) – is the first done in German. Co-writer/director Edward Berger’s frustrating decision to include German armistice negotiations that were not in the book and omit Paul’s early home life and brief return home – where he feels horribly out of place after witnessing war horrors – drastically diminishes the emotional impact of an otherwise compelling film.

Albrecht Schuch and Felix Kammerer in All Quiet on the Western Front

That said, Felix Kammerer’s film debut as young Paul is a powerful one, capturing his character’s ruinous transformation due to the traumatizing horrors he experiences. The visceral, realistic war cinematography and unsettling, harmonium-laden score from composer Volker Bertlemann (Ammonite, Adrift) combine to give the film additional heft. Even with its frustrating story modifications, this otherwise well-done adaptation of All Quiet on the Western Front is a haunting one.

REEL FACTS

• Following the publication of his 1928 novel, which was banned in then-authoritarian Germany, Erich Maria Remarque was forced to flee his homeland and live in exile, first in Switzerland then the U.S.

• Filmed north of Prague, Czech Republic, All Quiet on the Western Front is Germany’s Best International Film entry and has been shortlisted for the 2023 Oscars.

2014 photo of Felix Kammerer with parents Angelika Kirchschlager and Peter Kammerer

• Felix Kammerer, the son of esteemed Austrian opera singers Angelika Kirchschlager and Hans Peter Kammerer, scoured through 2500 archived letters from WWI soldiers and for four months wore lead weights during 10km walks three times a week to prepare for his role.

 

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