Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front has been put to film twice before. Famously in 1930 and again in 1979. This latest iteration takes full advantage of modern technology and techniques whilst largely retaining the spirit of Remarque’s story. Daniel Evans Reviews.
This film is visceral, tragic and relentless in its portrayal of war. The tone is set immediately as we follow the journey of a jacket taken from the corpse of a soldier; it is washed, patched up and given to a fresh recruit all in one sequence. This is reminiscent of Lord of War (2005) and its opening, however showing the recycling of a jacket from one man to the next highlights the regularity of death and the naivety of the soldiers who excitedly don their new uniforms.
This film is not an easy watch, but I implore you to do so
The jackets recipient is Paul Bäumer (Felix Kammerer), who we follow through the loss of friends and innocence as lives are wasted in mad and pointless carnage. There is no glory or honour, no victory or ultimate success. This is a portrayal of a wasted generation, turned into tools of war and led headlong into slaughter by disconnected and out of touch leaders.
The strength of this film is in two performances. These being Felix Kammerer (Bäumer) and Albrecht Schuch who plays Stanislaus Katczinsky. The chemistry between the two actors elevates the entire film and their friendship felt both genuine and effortless. Schuch’s balance of nuanced emotion and physicality deserves particular praise.
As strong as its performances are, this film is not without problems. The score while mostly good does seem to deviate strangely in certain areas. I appreciate what Volker Bertelmann was trying to do, but at points his work felt strangely out of place. The film also lacks focus and I feel that certain sequences were either in need of greater embellishment or cutting entirely. Daniel Brühl is an excellent screen presence, but I felt this film simply did not need a telling of the peace negotiations on top of the depictions of the battlefield. Sam Mendes’ superb 1917 (2019) showed that you can have a far more intimate story whilst still encapsulating the scale and horror of war. Had the focus been entirely on Bäumer, Katczinsky and their comrades this would have been a far stronger film. Remarque’s focus was not on politicians or generals, he was writing of his generations experience, so this deviation feels like something of a disservice.
All Quiet on the Wester Front is a timely reminder of the horrors of war. As we speak, Putin is sending tens of thousands to their deaths, World leaders have little to no care for the wellbeing of the planet and society is becoming ever more polarised. This film is not an easy watch, but I implore you to do so. There is now no one left alive who remembers the trenches of the First World War, meaning it is increasingly important that people remain aware of its horrors. Remember the value of peace and remember those who have died as a result of leaders who see no value in it.
Featured image courtesy of Alex Watkin. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes were made to this image.
In-article image courtesy of @thedanielbruhl via Instagram.com. No changes were made to this image.
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