All Quiet on the Western Front (Edward Berger, 2022, Germany/USA/UK)

All Quiet on the Western Front
 is the third adaptation of Eric Maria Remarque's 1928 pacifist novel, although notably the first in the author's native German language. The novel was previously adapted by the American studios in 1930 by Lewis Milestone, and then for American television by Delbert Mann in 1979. This adaptation was brought to the screen by Swiss director Edward Berger, who collaborated with Ian Stokell and Lesley Paterson on the screenplay. What does this new adaptation bring to the table? Remarque's "war is hell" narrative - an enthusiastic soldier confronting the brutal reality of combat - is one of that has often been imitated throughout film history.

Berger's adaptation changes the formula somewhat by interspersing an additional narrative surrounding the armistice. Famed German actor Daniel Bruhl plays the real-life historical figure Matthias Erzberger, the German politician who brokered the peace settlement with France (and was later assassinated for it). This adds a wider historical context to Remarque's narrative. The main thrust of the film however is still the story of the soldier Paul Baumer's descent into hell, from a bright-eyed recruit to a disillusioned soldier. We begin with the training phase, but it is not long after that the film fast-forwards and we enter the brutal combat phase.

The combat scenes in the trenches are given the feel of an action movie, as Paul manages to just barely sneak by with his life as his compatriots die around him. The film doesn't gloss over the brutality, particularly in scenes of close-range trench warfare. The film is enhanced by Felix Kammerer's performance as Paul, as well as the film's powerful and non-traditional score by Volker Bertelmann. Though the film moves toward an inevitable climax, it nevertheless manages to maintain a level of suspense and tension throughout. Berger's adaptation breathes new life into an old text.



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