All Quiet on the Western Front (2022) – Edward Berger

I missed All Quiet on the Western Front when it screened at TIFF. I just couldn’t make it work with my schedule, so when it dropped on Netflix, you can be assured it went to the front of my viewing queue.

Berger’s film, based on the iconic novel by Erich Maria Remarque, is a stunning masterpiece, jaw-dropping in its scope, and heartbreaking in its intimacy. Arguably the best adaption of Remarque’s novel to date, the film follows a young German man, Paul Baumer (Felix Kammerer), from his idealistic beginnings when he signed up for to fight in The Great War, to the horrors and experiences of the battlefield.

But even his idealistic expectations are sullied for the audience as we know where his uniform has come from, we’ve seen the terrors that await him at war, and he’s rushing headlong into it.

That naivete doesn’t last long, in his first brush with open conflict he begins to lose his friends, and his soul, as he is thrown into the trenches, and deals with the everpresent distress of possible attack, faulty supply lines, and death. So much death.

Kammerer is perfectly cast, he looks young, and terrified, and seeing his experiences through his eyes, is eye-opening for anyone who has ever proclaimed about the glory of war.

Remarque’s original novel and his other writings very much illustrated him to be anti-war and a pacifist, and if one was to argue the reverse, I would suggest taking a look at the horrors portrayed in this story, film or novel.

Weaving through Paul’s story are two others, one featuring Matthias Erzberger (Daniel Bruhl) in a German delegation meeting secretly with the French to reach a ceasefire, armistice, and perhaps a lasting peace. The other features a war-hungry general, Friedrichs (Devid Streisow) who opposes the talks, and watches everything from the comfort of a well-stocked villa.

Paul’s journey is heartbreaking, gone are dreams, emotions, and perhaps most of his will, There is only one imperative now, to survive, but as Friedrichs pushes to gain as much ground, and inflict as many casualties before a ceasefire can be declared, nothing is certain.

Beautifully, and realistically shot, All Quiet on the Western Front is a stunning, thought-provoking and heart-wrenching watch. And it’s important to see it for those very reasons.

There has to be a better way than through our willing young into the bloody cogs of a machine that chews them up, destroying lives, just because people didn’t want to sit down and talk things over, despite that, in the end, that is what is going to happen.

An important, powerful, continually relevant story and must-see viewing. I can’t recommend this one enough.

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