German Oscar film ‘All Quiet’ confronts horrors of wartime

Streaming HUBMarch 3, 2023

BERLIN (AP) – “All Quiet on the Western Front,” Germany’s entry to the Academy Awards, shows the horrors of World War I from the unique perspective of the country that started and lost two World Wars.

The Netflix film enters the March 12 ceremony with nine nominations, including Best Picture and International Film (a category it’s expected to win). It tells the heart-wrenching story of a 17-year-old German soldier stationed in the trenches of France, where he and his comrades experience firsthand how their initial patriotic enthusiasm for war turns to desperation and fear as they fight for their lives. fight for

Unlike many American films that portray the world wars as a heroic epic, “All Quiet on the Western Front” shows the pain and loss of those who suffered and died in the war. It is told from the point of view of those responsible for starting and ultimately losing the war.

German director Eduard Berger said in a recent interview, “An American war film could be about pride and honor, because America liberated Europe from fascism.”

He said that the Germans could never make such a film.

Berger said, “We made the film from a place of responsibility for the legacy of the war, the guilt of the war, for bringing terror into the world, the shame about it, and the history.”

The film has an eerie timeliness as young European men are again killing each other in the trenches after Russia invaded Ukraine last year.

“All Quiet on the Western Front” is based on the world famous 1929 bestseller of the same name by Erich Maria Remarque. Generations of German teenagers have read the novel in high school to teach them about the visceral pain of war.

The 1930 adaptation of the novel by American filmmakers won two Academy Awards, including the equivalent of the ceremony’s Best Picture award.

The Netflix adaptation was released in October and has already seen success on many levels. It won seven awards at last month’s EE BAFTA Film Awards, including the impressive ceremony’s Best Picture honour. Since its release, it has been one of the most watched non-English films on Netflix in the US, according to the streaming service.

Berger speculates that one reason for the film’s huge success may have been its unusual, grim outlook on the war, which may have been surprising to some American audiences.

In Germany, where critics were less enthusiastic and complained about historical inaccuracies and the film’s lack of complexity compared to the original novel, it was nevertheless a No. 1 audience hit in its first week after its release. Globally, it has so far spent 14 weeks in the top ten.

Berger, who read “All Quiet on the Western Front” as a teenager and was “deeply moved and influenced by it”, said that with the rise of populism and separatism in Europe, the US and elsewhere in recent years, He felt that it was the right time to make a new version.

He said that Russia’s aggressive and brutal invasion of Ukraine can be seen as a direct result of such nationalism and animosity.

Berger’s film warns of the tragedy of war in a very graphic way.

The film’s protagonist Paul Baumer, played by Austrian actor Felix Kammerer, volunteers as a soldier and is sent to the Western Front in France in 1917, a year before Germany loses World War I.

Set in dystopic colors on nightmarish battlefields, the young man fights in the trenches with injuries and witnesses to violent deaths.

In one particularly harrowing scene, Baumer wounds a French soldier in close combat and watches as he slowly dies. At the last moment, he tries to help ease the soldier’s pain. In the French soldier’s pocket, he finds pictures of his wife and daughter, realizes what has happened to him, and lets out a terrible cry.

Berger said, “You can have no enemy who is killed and it is a good death.”

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