Empathy – we are all 1) advertising it, 2) striving for it, 3) acknowledge its importance in world of polarization. All quiet on the Western front is a book that I read in my teen years. It is written by Erich Maria Remarque, a writer that I admired. His book Three Comrades was a friend of mine in the cold winter evening hours for years. All Quiet on the Western front was published in 1928 and depicted the struggle of German soldiers during the First World War. Two years later the book was adapted to the big screen. The film was directed by Lewis Milestone and I saw it during my film school years. It was a good film and the Academy recognized it as such by giving it an Oscar for best picture and best director.
The political aspect of the World Wars and it’s implications are not the topic that 1) I want to explore, nor 2) I’m in a position to do. This review will focus on the artistic aspect of the new adaptation of the above mentioned novel.
Directed by Edward Berger, All Quiet on the Western Front (2022) is a very well made film. The battle scenes are superbly staged and choreographed and show the absurdity of survival. The First World War called by many The Great War is a war of political ambitions. Political ambitions aiming to restore the greatness of a nation, political ambitions aiming to retain the motherland, political ambitions aiming to revitalize the young generation and their ambition to leave their mark. The political ambitions and their futile and ultimately deadly aspects are superbly depicted in the newest film adaptation.
The cinematography captures not only the moments of despair, but elongates them into eternity of duress. The long tracking shots (especially during attacks) combined with the atmospheric lighting and fog place the viewer in that environment. One can feel the cold and wet mud that becomes a solders paradise or last resting place. The cinematography is greatly enhanced by the believable special effects and realistic make-up. The special effects are not over the top and they are not incorporated to showcase the bravura of the next generation software. The make-up especially effective by depicting superbly the ultimate impotency of the grandiose invasion ideas. Those three cinematic elements are further emphasized by the dark low pitch monotonous music that captures the lives of quiet desperation in the face of untimely but omnipotent death. A music that I could still hear several hours after the film end credits. The directing juxtaposes those brutal scenes with quiet moments. Quiet moments that further comment on the difference between soldiers and generals. The scenes of the soldiers stealing poultry and cooking it is contrasted by the gluttony and shallowness of commanding officer who is unwilling to accept defeat. The pride of a general that is more important than the lives of thousands. The pride of politicians that begets destruction, the pride of diplomats that are impotent to prevent the worst before it happens.
The sound and the editing are intertwined into a cohesive narrative that make All Quiet on the Western Front to be arguably one of the best film of 2022. The film is not made for the faint of heart, but it should be seen by all (politicians, military and diplomats included) because it oozes out the farcical aspect of honor. As the artist says – wars should be fought by politician themselves hitting each other with socks filled with manure.
4 / 5
Directed by Edward Berger
Starring: Felix Kammerer, Albrecht Schuch, Aaron Hilmer.