Adapted from Erich Maria Notenovel of the same name from 1929, Edoardo Berger‘s assume “All quiet on the west frontIs a chilling antiwar film with a star twist Felix Kammerer in the lead role of young Paul Bäumer, who learns the hard way that war is hell.
Although it is difficult not to compare and contrast this new version Lewis landmarkThe best 1930 film winner of a movie Lew AyresIt is equally strange that it took nearly 100 years for a German adaptation given that it is the novel’s country of origin. There are nuances of the Milestone image here due to their shared source material, but it’s closer to tone GW Pabstit’s a much darker 1930 film “West Front 1918. ” Like both films, Berger finds beauty in all bloodshed, but above all he finds hypocrisy in the senseless slaughter of nearly an entire generation of the nation’s young men.
READ MORE: TIFF 2022: 16 must-see films to see at the Toronto Film Festival
In early 1917, a young man named Heinrich comes out of the trenches with his brigade, seeing them all die as they shout his name in camaraderie. His uniform, like that of all the other fallen men, is stripped of the corpse, the blood washed off, the tears patched up, before being re-edited by the new young recruit Paul Bäumer, who, along with his friends, lied about their age so that they can go to war and get the fabulous glory that the old people of the country sold them to. Each oblivious to the fact that in the past three years their countrymen, like Heinrich, have died by the millions on some 300 yards of land.
This heartbreaking opening sequence is one of the film’s many stellar action scenes. Paul’s first night is nearly dead in a thousand ways as the cacophony of war sounds – bombs shooting, explosions, men moaning – swirl around him. After seeing several friends killed in the most brutal ways and being tasked with collecting their dog tags, Paul’s fresh face loses its luster and the shock of seeing so much death up close creeps in.
The most impressive piece finds Paul and his regiment a week before the armistice, ordered to return to the front. This is where the film’s over-reliance on CGI gets the better of it. Berger’s compositions are striking and the tension created by the film’s overwhelming sound design e Volker BertelmannThe searing synthesizer-infused organ score is palpable. But what should be as impressive as the extended battle sequence in King Vidorclassic of 1925 “The big parade”Is canceled by the scandalously tacky CGI. Instead of looking menacing, the huge panzer tanks look like something “Star Wars. ” Flamethrowers wielded by opposing soldiers are beautifully set into the frame, but they fire some of the most fake looking flames ever. In fact, during all the battle sequences, even the smoke is created with the CGI which proves to be continually distracting.
READ MORE: Fall 2022 Preview: Over 60 Must-See Movies
The screenplay, nearly two and a half hours long, has been attributed to Ian Stokell, Lesley Paterson, and Berger himself, closely follows the book, which means that between battles Paul has many conversations with his fellow soldiers. He is particularly close to Stanislaus “Kat” Katczinsky (Albrecht Schuch), an illiterate shoemaker, whom Paul helps by reading him from his wife’s letters. They form a unique bond as the two seem to survive so much together, while everyone around them dies. Although their last moments together are slightly altered from the novel, the emotional impact remains as devastating as it has ever been.
Since Paul is the audience’s surrogate, the film either lives or dies based on the casting and in Kammerer the filmmakers have struck gold. His transformation from a wide-eyed teenage recruit with delusions of grandeur into a disillusioned killer indifferent to life and death is astonishing. In one exceptional sequence, Paul kills a French soldier in hand-to-hand combat, who dies loudly and slowly as the two are trapped together in a water-soaked crater. Overwhelmed with remorse and realizing that he is a normal man, just like all of his fallen friends, Paul attempts to save the man’s life. When he fails, the pain takes over his entire body. Kammerer is extraordinary; a raw nerve whose slow numbness is devastating to watch.
“All of Germany will soon be empty,” complains a fellow soldier at the beginning of the film after the regiment found a room full of teenage soldiers, who died because they didn’t have an experienced leader with them and took off their masks too soon. A fitting metaphor for the utter mismanagement of war by a cowardly Kaiser and power-hungry generals who are more interested in getting their names in the history books than in the welfare of their countrymen.
Unfortunately, it is the sections where we see one of these generals commanding his troops comfortably from a balcony, and also scenes of Daniel Bruhl like the German politician Matthias Erzberger attempting to mediate the armistice, this never quite fits the flow of the film. Berger haphazardly returns to both throughout the film, never finding a way to smooth the transitions to and from these scenes, even if they are necessary to push the story to its bleak, ironic conclusion.
Regardless of its minor flaws, Berger and his crew have crafted a faithful and heartbreaking adaptation that fully achieves the novel’s acute anti-war themes. At the end of the film, a new young soldier is ordered to collect dog tags from all the soldiers killed in the general’s vain final attempt at victory, minutes before the armistice goes into effect. Looking at Paul’s face, he sees that it is not unlike him; young, yet old beyond his years. Perhaps this young man realizes that, unlike Paul, he now has the possibility of being more than just fodder for the war machine, and this is the true path to glory. [B+]
Follow our full coverage of the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival.