All Quiet on the Western Front

All Quiet on the Western Front ★★★★½

Recently receiving multiple award nominations from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, this newest remake of Erich Maria Remarque’s classic 1929 World War I novel, could become the first German language film to take home a Best Picture Oscar. Certainly it will be in the running.

Most of us are familiar with the classic novel, but for those who aren't, it follows the ordeal of four young German men (Paul, Albert, Franz, and Ludwig, one of whom fakes his parent's permission slip because he is under-age) who sign up for the German army in 1917, when there is a great need for replacement troops. With little to no training, they are shipped almost immediately to the trenches. The boys' initial idealism has them dreaming of marching triumphantly into Paris... but their growing disillusionment is charted in a devastating series of events not for the faint of heart.

The film is told mostly through the eyes of Paul (Felix Kammerer) who by fortune survives through to the armistice of Nov. 1918, and an older soldier, Kat (Albrecht Schuch) who befriends him.

Meticulous in detail and with superb performances from a mostly young and unfamiliar (to me) German cast, the film is unrelentingly grim, but the cinematography is particularly noteworthy. The lighting of some of the night vistas, battle flares against a smoky and overcast sky, is breath-taking! The music too is worth note, although it's minimal -- sometimes just a pattern of three descending chords, or often the sound of ominous drums.

This seems to be the year of films that are overly long in running time, but this one never ceased to hold this viewer's attention. The ending is over-ripe with irony and the project wears its humanitarian heart on its torn and bloody sleeve. Remarque's novel cries out against the madness and futility of armed military engagements, and the trench warfare of "the war to end all wars" is fertile material for that viewpoint.

If "war is hell," and it is... this modern cry of pain and passion carries us to hell and back with élan.

Block or Report

Fireballoon liked these reviews