All Quiet on the Western Front

All Quiet on the Western Front ★★★★★

Foregrounding how challenging, uncomfortable and dangerous life was on the front line in World War One, All Quiet on the Western Front is a highly cinematic German-language adaptation of the canonical first world war German novel by Enrich Maria Remarque. It's a potent, eloquent and conscientiously impassioned film from director and co-writer Edward Berger that follows a group of teenage boys who quickly find themselves caught up in the ordeal of trench warfare.

While Berger admirably follows through with recreating the inhumanity of military action, he also switches stances to lighter occasions for the soldiers and scenes involving the politics of bureaucracy. Once on the battlefield, however, the film focuses on the point of view of a young soldier named Paul Bäumer (Felix Kammerer). The production design, make-up and costumes are spectacles of gritty authenticity, and the appropriately cold cinematography from James Friend captures a barren wasteland in a breathtakingly oppressive manner. The men clambering over trenches to their almost certain death, the all-around claustrophobia and inescapable hand-to-hand combat are all expertly melded in this version with a striking, shuddering brutality. Even after the Hollywood versions of 1930 and 1979, All Quiet On The Western Front still manages to forge an experience that cuts as deep as a knife and is bleak, barren and ugly.

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