When All Quiet on the Western Front by author Erich Maria Remarque was first published in Germany in 1929, it was an immediate worldwide sensation. The story of World War I from the perspective of young German soldier Paul Bäumer, who, along with a group of classmates, volunteers to join the army and quickly finds himself dealing with the grim realities of trench warfare, became the year’s best-selling novel in America and inspired a movie adaptation that went on to win the Oscar for Best Picture in 1930.
Today the novel remains required reading at many schools around the world — including the high school attended by filmmaker Edward Berger’s daughter. The German writer-director had been approached about shepherding a new adaptation of the book for the screen and was surprised by her reaction after he mentioned the possibility of tackling the project.
“As I was mulling it over, I decided to discuss the opportunity one night at the dinner table,” says Berger. “My daughter said, ‘If you can turn this book into a movie, you absolutely have to do it!’ She was 17 at the time and, you would think, perhaps not really the audience for this type of movie. But she had just read the book in school and was so moved by it that she literally ordered me to take the opportunity. It is a world-famous German bestseller, but it had never been told from a German perspective.” Berger’s approach has already resonated within his country as it was selected as Germany’s Oscar entry for consideration for the Best International Feature Film.