When it comes to Oscar bait, All is quiet on the Western Front has everything. blistering, cacophonous score. Strong sepia and blue color correction. The brilliant Daniel Bruhl. Two hours and 27 minutes of relentless itching. And it worked. Of course it worked. Not only was director Edward Berger’s adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque’s influential 1929 novel (his third so far) almost universally admired by the American media. All calm it is now up for nine Academy Award nominations, including the first-ever Best Picture nomination for a German-language film.
So with all this international hoopla, you’d think the Germans would finally be visibly impressed by something, which is the first German film production as it was originally called. Im Westen nichts Neues. To quote a movie that probably should have won nine Oscar nominations instead: Instead, in the culture pages of the respectable German press, Berger’s rather loose translation of every German book Shulkind knows by heart, not just happened panned. It has been, to name a few random examples, run over, gassed, grenaded, bayoneted, shot at, crushed by a tank, crushed, hung as a headless limb from a tree, and finally stabbed to death in a forgotten crater. and left himself to whimper for an infinite number of minutes in helpless ruin.
You know what? I’m firmly on Team Deutschland’s side on this one. They are correct. They’re right to take issue with Remarque’s perversion of the timeless narrative, which is essentially a high-budget horror picaresque. Black Forest Chainsaw Massacre without the usual pleasures of the horror genre. and yes I understand. The movie is unabashedly scary, you see, because otherwise we might think trench warfare was hell as hell.. Thank you for disabusing me of this concept, literally no one has since 1916. I want my two hours and siebenundzwanzig: Minute back
But perhaps it is disingenuous of us as Americans to refuse All calm as anything other than a quintessential horror movie experience that needs to be plugged in Schindler’s list and: Apocalypse Now: in the morally impregnable anti-war pantheon. So I say we just let the Germans do it for us, as only they can. with very long words that seem contrived to evoke strangely precise situations.
It just didn’t happen panned. It was machine gunned, gassed, grenaded, bayoneted, shelled, smashed by a tank, burned and hanged as a headless torso. tree.
take Sludgefor example, which means muddiness or mud fightand ends with the word German battle which too evocatively happens to be the root of the word slaughter. Sludge, itself the title of Hubert Wetzel’s stunning review in the venerable Süddeutsche Zeitung , which describes the weather conditions in which much of the film’s carnage takes place, and perhaps also the filmmakers’ treatment of the literary treasure. Indeed, while Wetzel gloriously points to the film’s Grand Guignol style; “Everyone who doesn’t know yet, but wants to, can learn by watching. All is quiet on the Western Front that there were many many Different Ways to Kill and Die in World War I”—the main focus of his ire is Berger’s disregard for the source material. And while his most poignant solo was also admired in the Guardian; “No book is so good that you can’t make a bad movie out of it,” is his honest reflection on whether Berger even read the novel all the way through. The Süddeutsche pages are on fire. The film has so little in common with its source material, he claims, “if the characters didn’t have the same names as the book … it would be hard to find any notable parallels between the two works.” Indeed, if “an American director had dissected Remarque’s book in this way in order to bring it to the screen, the protest in the German cultural sector would have been particularly intense.” Wetzel’s final judgment on the film calls for another epic compound; Kriegskichor war clause.
Andreas Kilb writes in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that “there are no anti-war films”. Instead, “There are war movies that work at the height of their craft and others that don’t.” Only if you even think for a second that All calm belonged to the group wereKilb presents us with another fantastic compound to express the infinite depths of his hatred. In fact, the problem is precisely the kind of didactic excitement that American audiences swallow like perfectly crisp Pilsners. “So that every viewer understands that I’m Westen … is not only a feature film, but also a piece of history, – explains Kilb, – Berger posted half an hour. Schulfernsehen between action sequences, and adjusted the timeline of Remarque’s novel accordingly.” I left the bite Schulfernsehen not translated here because it has no English equivalent; it literally translates to ‘school television’, meaning something your history teacher pops out on an old tube TV when they’re too busy to give a pop quiz.
The “television” in question is what Berger puts into the film to break what would otherwise be what Kilb calls it. Dauerbeschuss:or incessant shooting, about unimaginably gruesome ways of being maimed and/or killed. It’s hard to choose a dear itself, but I guess it has to be when the supposed protagonist Paul Boehmer (newcomer Felix Kammerer, who does an admirable job with a script that mostly calls for screams and death rattles) watches one of his school friends who tries to surrender to the French. — only to fire at close range with a flamethrower before finally firing. After all, why offer viewers a reprieve from the blood and guts by walking away? in the famous pages where Baumer goes on vacation and struggles to live again in polite society after what he has seen and done. Instead, why not just introduce a whole new set of characters, taller ones who drink fancy wine and ride fancy trains and include a bloodthirsty general who spends the film sitting in his mansion literally twirling his moustache? Even on the big screen, Kilb concludes. All calm has a “pumped up mini-series” effect that will be lucky to live in war movie history as a footnote.
Of course, it’s no surprise that Germans are critical of anything. It is their favorite national pastime. But the evisceration All calm is in a class by itself. Why? One reason is that Remarque’s novel is sacred literary ground. It remains to this day that A German WWI novel, or, as Kilb pointed out, even that European.
Not just because it honestly depicts the brazenness and senselessness of sending an entire generation of teenagers to die in the name of a crumbling empire. It is due too All calmhas a unique place in the German consciousness that, well, has a completely different relationship to the First World War than everyone else. aIt will be quiet was a clear story no written by the victors, banned when the Nazis took power to flatten and exploit the complex pain faced by the losers of the Great War. The result of that leveling led, of course, to another world war and atrocities so great that Germany will never cease to be infamous for them, no matter how benign her actions in the intervening centuries.
The “war to end all wars” is indeed a minefield for the Germans, and to break its most sacred text in favor of what Bild accurately called it. Oscar-Galeheit (or “Beefing for Oscar”) is not just inadequate in the way Germans find most things inadequate. It’s bad enough that even they don’t always have words for how bad it is is.