All Quiet on the Western Front

All Quiet on the Western Front

Hard to put my finger on what exactly smells off, but I think it's best exemplified in the blaring, dub-like horns which intrude upon the solemn mass burial of massacred soldiers at 6 minutes and 24 seconds into the film like a wet, sloppy fart from a phoned-in Hans Zimmer. There is already a faint score of strings playing in the background and the arrival of these horns (I will just call them farts hereon) is so at odds with everything else that the film both has previously established and is presenting to us now that I genuinely thought I might've accidentally opened some pop-up ad in my web browser even though I have adblock or that this came from someone else in a discord call even though I wasn't in a voice chat, because both of these impossibilities were still somehow more logical than accepting that someone making this film willingly and deliberately overlaid these farts on top of such an austere scene, almost rendering it sacrilegious if it wasn't so comically stupid.

This is ultimately (and unfortunately) what 2022's All Quiet on the Western Front is like, most of the film composed of thoughtful, somber moments in the midst of a hell no one was ready for, occasionally yet inevitably interrupted with something that feels so tonally out-of-place that I have to imagine was forced in. For what reason I cannot answer, but generally it seems like the film (and those most involved in its making) does not trust the audience to come to any emotional conclusion without blaring it at them. Deaths are horrible, incredibly so, but also gazed at and orchestrated with such intensity and mechanism (and at times, melodrama) that it feels more exploitative than honest; complex polities are massively simplified for us in having angry shouty bureaucrats blatantly declare that they don't care about the lives of those they command; and, of course, we are told when to feel apprehensive (my best guess, I honestly don't know what they want us to feel) when they send in the farts.

There is a phenomenal film buried in here as evident by how much of the individual components shine (with particularly great sets), but somewhere along the line it forgets its own title (where is the "Quiet"?) and gets smothered in over-produced packaging instructing us how exactly to unwrap and unpack it as they didn't think audiences could come to the conclusion that war is, quite actually, bad without spelling it out for us– and in doing so, flattening such complexities and depreciating such messaging. Ultimately comes across as a bigger deal than it really is, not unlike a fart.

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