The story follows teenagers Paul Bäumer and his friends Albert and Müller, who voluntarily enlist in the German army, riding a wave of patriotic fervor that quickly dissipates once they face the brutal realities of life on the front. Paul's preconceptions about the enemy and the rights and wrongs of the conflict soon crumble. However, amid the countdown to armistice, Paul must carry on fighting until the end, with no purpose other than to satisfy the top brass' desire to end the war on a German offensive.
Felix Kammerer, Daniel Bruhl & Albrecht Schuch.
All Quiet on the Western Front is quite possibly, one of the best war films ever made. With its breathtaking cinematography to haunting sound design, this was truly a cinematic experience from beginning to end. There is rarely a moment to take a breath, as Edward Berger flawlessly pulls us in instantly, with a beautiful shot of the ‘quietness’ within the title, away from war.
Upon viewing the trailer, it was clear that the film would be a high contender for a best cinematography nomination at the Oscars next year & now seeing all the moving parts of the story accompanied by the cinematography, there is a clear sight for a nomination here. Whether Berger is conveying the horrors of the war, or the tragedy, each shot is brimming with care & effort put into each frame, truly mastering visual storytelling. Which wouldn’t be as effective if it wasn’t for Felix & Albrecht’s unbelievable performances, full of shock and terror, as well as lost innocence. As the film progresses, we certainly see Paul lose his childlike innocence and naivety, entirely through subtle expressions conveyed such as his eye contact followed by very little blinking, there is a certain concentration to his performance that I greatly admired. Kat, while no longer a child, is full of regret and experience. A certain scene involving a letter left me speechless, unable to comprehend the feeling Kat may be going through. The film is a perfection depiction of realism in war & the emotions these soldiers go through.
It wouldn’t surprise me if this had a budget of 150 million or even 20, because so much hard work and love went into every aspect of the production. The sets are huge & the practicality is so vividly clear, it truly sells the terrifying realism of war. While this is all great stuff, I left the film with one main component on my mind. The score. Volker Bertelmann has something very special on his hands, very occasionally I ever so slightly jumped out of my seat every time he played this certain note, booms like a bomb. It turned me into a child. I knew this was something special the first time I heard it. As discussed beforehand, the performances and directing are huge standouts, yet by the end of the film, I found myself tearing up to Volker’s beautiful original score sent shivers down my spine, it would be a great loss if the Academy didn’t look at this one. It’s special.
As much as I would love to call this the perfect film, I can’t. In the film we follow Paul & his fellow soldiers through the brutality of war, while another plot thread, we follow Matthias whom is desperately attempting to make a deal with the French to stop the war. This section of the film, while important, left me rather uninterested. I certainly started to feel the runtime during these sequences, whether that is a fault of the director or myself, that will be up to you.
Nonetheless, this was most certainly one of my favourite film experiences of the year. Brimming with so much love towards all aspects of production, I couldn’t get enough of it. Whether the academy will recognise this film or not, I hope everyone else will.