As the Oscars near March 12 in Hollywood, the voices of support for one of the nominees, the epic war drama All Quiet on the Western Front, are growing louder.Killing machineThe German-made film, funded by streaming giant Netflix and available to subscribers, is the latest screen adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque’s classic 1929 novel All Quiet on the Western Front. And a year later, with incredible speed, the first film adaptation of the novel, filmed by American director Lewis Milestone, at the third Academy Awards received two key awards – for best picture and best director. The strip, then recognized as the pinnacle of Hollywood realism, was also nominated for Best Cinematography and Best Screenplay awards, but did not receive them. This time the new version can get them.53-year-old German director Edward Berger, who has worked mainly in television, wrote the screenplay based on the novel by Remarque with Brits Ian Stockell and Leslie Paterson. The protagonist of the novel and the film, Paul Boyman (memorable actor Felix Kammerer), goes with friends to the front, in the zone of active hostilities between the Germans and the French during the First World War. Action Time – 1918, the war is running out, but continues to devour human lives.Berger is credited with the ability to combine the scale of battle and the nuanced characters of the characters. When yesterday’s school children, including Paul, first arrive on the front line, their naive enthusiasm with which they went to fight is replaced by fear, horror and confusion. They hide from enemy artillery fire in a bunker that actually turns out to be a death trap. Welcome to Hell!One of the most impressive episodes of the film is the attack of the French tanks. Huge armored monsters crawl across the disfigured plain. Paul and his colleagues show miracles of heroism, which reminded many critics of similar episodes in the Spielberg film Saving Private Ryan.In another shocking moment, a German soldier begs for mercy from a Frenchman, who unhesitatingly points a flamethrower at him. And the scene where the protagonist’s friend is mortally wounded by the son of a French farmer, in revenge for looting, resembles horror films about the hinterland.The film impressively shows the process of gradual dehumanization of the hero, who turns into a killing machine. And only once, finding himself in a giant funnel of an explosion next to a dying Frenchman from his own bayonet, does he painfully realize the gross injustice of war and violent death. After all, this dying “enemy” has, or rather, had a family, children, moments of happiness.A black horseToday, moviegoers agree that the harvest of awards at the next Oscars for this film “On the Western Front…” is likely to be greater than that of its legendary predecessor nearly of a century.The BAFTAs (British Academy Film Awards) are generally considered the precursor to the Oscars, which are voted on by members of the American Film Academy. “On the Western Front…” won seven BAFTA awards out of 14 nominations. Berger’s picture has 9 Oscar nominations, the same number as uplifting Irish drama The Banshee of Inisherin, and two shy of race-leading comedy fantasy Everything Everywhere at Once.In the Best Adapted Screenplay category, writer-director Sarah Polley’s feminist retrodrama Women’s Talking was the frontrunner until recently. But after the announcement of the BAFTA awards, Hollywood bookmakers sharply raised the stakes for Berger’s film, which is now considered one of the frontrunners in the main “Best Picture” nomination and the absolute leader in the “Best Picture” category. international” (as the foreign language film category has recently been called).However, the new version will not be able to literally repeat the success of the 1930 film, if only because it is not among the nominees in the category “best director”, where Lewis Milestone excelled. But surprises are possible in other categories. Some pundits think “On the Western Front…” could turn out to be the very dark horse that will take the lead at the very finish line. They recall the recent sensation when humble family drama CODA: Child of Deaf Parents beat out much stronger competitors at the 94th Academy Awards.
All is calm on the Western Front Credit: Netflix
Curious, for example, is the situation in the “best cinematography” category. After the Camera Guild released “Top Gun: Maverick,” which critics considered a favorite in that category, Berger’s picture chances jumped. Neither “Elvis”, nor “Tar”, nor “Empire of Light” nor “Bardo”, according to some observers, can compete with the virtuoso camera of James Friend, who captured the war as a mesmerizing bloody extravaganza. His style recalls the “apocalyptic realism” of Elem Klimov and his cameraman Alexei Rodionov in Come and See.truce and croissantsIt is known that the anti-war book by Remarque, which was hugely popular with readers not only in Germany, but also in many other countries, immediately became the object of Nazi attacks. And when Hitler came to power, the country’s new authorities recognized the book as anti-German, seized it from sales and libraries and burned it at the stake.According to Guardian columnist Nicholas Barber, Germans today may be unhappy that their ancestors are portrayed in the new film as good guys worthy of sympathy.“Changing a classic novel is always a tricky business,” Barber writes. – but could there be a worse time than now to glorify the invaders?He quotes German film critics who are surprised at how far Berger has departed from Remarque’s original source material. The director and his co-writers are accused of not including a number of important episodes from the book in the story, adding episodes that are not in the book.As Barber notes, the French are presented as brutally cruel, while the Germans are more often presented as victims. That would anger Remark, he points out.The critic considered it banal to show a stark “class” contrast between the meager life of soldiers in the trenches and the defiant luxury of their military leaders, who drink tea with croissants in staff cars.Comparing how the military leaders of France and Germany are depicted on the eve and at the signing of the armistice document, which effectively ended the war, Barber notes that the German side is depicted with noticeable sympathy.The German politician (actor Daniel Brühl) tries to soften a number of demands of the Allied forces, expressed by the tough Marshal Foch. But the Marshal makes no concessions, demanding that all the terms of the contract be met. The German politician begs the Marshal: “Be fair to the enemy. Otherwise, he will hate such a world. In fact, the school of thought is not new. The Treaty of Versailles turned out to be only a twenty-year truce, after which Germany unleashed an even more terrible war.Like a number of other reviewers, Barber mentions a real war raging in Ukraine in his review.”The message of the film is this,” writes the Guardian reviewer, “if you invade another country, be prepared for your braves to be treated harshly by the military and civilians alike.”sound and imageCritics pay tribute to the high level of the components of cinematic art such as the work of the production designer, costumes and makeup. In these nominations, On the Western Front has a prime chance of winning an Oscar.The filmmakers found a company in Poland which undertook to sew a huge quantity of military uniforms, to manufacture hundreds of helmets and pairs of shoes for the characters and extras. Additionally, they opened a tailor’s shop in Prague during filming, where many costumes and other clothes were made. For the main characters, several sets of more or less worn uniforms were sewn.
All is calm on the Western Front Credit: Netflix
Berger and his comrades-in-arms understood that in combat conditions, a soldier could not stay clean, clean-shaven, with a well-groomed haircut. Stylist and make-up artist Heike Merker, who has previously worked on films such as Crazy Rich Asians and The Grand Budapest Hotel, was in charge of this filming front.The appearance of the heroes of the film in combat conditions is a reflection of the “truth of the trenches”, which for many years in European and American cinema did not find an outlet. Merker said she carefully studied the photographs and chronicle of World War I and was very impressed with Peter Jackson’s reconstruction documentary, We Never Grow Old.And, of course, the film gained a lot by getting a very unusual soundtrack from composer Volker Bertelmann. The composer said in an interview that the director, explaining the idea to him, asked him to “destroy the film” with his music. They agreed that the music should not pedal and emotionally duplicate what is happening on screen, as is usually the case with film music. Bertelmann invented an ominous gut sound, intended to convey the physiological sensation of horror that Paul experiences when he falls in the trenches. It is completed with a short like gunshot and a somewhat clumsy sound of a marching drum. The composer also said he used an old harmonica that his great-grandmother kept for the soundtrack.