All Quiet on The Western Front (Im Westen Nichts Nueus)- Review: A promise leads to the dream of glory, an imminent (impossible?) legacy, and the feeling of pride. Young men fresh out of school view it as the fulfillment of a teenage dream. They march with determination, their chests puffed out, and head to fight a war in the name of individuals who will never raise a weapon. In their posh rooms, the suits never know who fights for them. On the battlefield, survival instinct and rage see humanity cast aside.
The men in uniform run into the unknown. In the heat of combat, they brutalize someone’s son, father, husband, or brother. Later, they learn that they are the same- just humans on different sides. The moment they see and understand what they just did, can drive home the theme with the subtlety of a sledgehammer.
This particular scene I’m talking about comes right around the middle of the film- in the 88th minute. At that point, once the quiet sets in, they realize that it is too late to say sorry. The other person is quiet as well. Remorse? Yes. But had they not been ruthless, they would have been corpses themselves.
At other times, they can’t even think about that. Why? A lapse in concentration will result in them punching their ticket into mass unmarked graves and an uninjured colleague collecting their identity tag, tossing them into a truck, and sending their uniforms to the factory for reuse.
The futility of war is a message that comes across in Im Westen Nichts Nueus. For when the dust settles and the sun rises on a new day, the signs of battle remain scattered across the bleak landscape.
This is one of the barbaric horrors of war that gets captured in All Quiet on the Western Front on Netflix. One young man, Paul Baumer (Felix Kammerer), realizes that the glory promised to him (and his fellow soldiers) will come at a great personal cost. These weary men dream of news from home, but all is quiet on that front. The echoes of triumphant glory in their heads have gone mute as they travel to the quiet western front, where silence is craved, cherished, and ominous at the same time.
What’s Good about All Quiet on The Western Front?
All Quiet on The Western Front begins with a wordless presentation of war victims and collateral damage. For eight minutes, there aren’t any dialogues, as the camera seemingly transports the audience from before their screens to the location of century-old battles. Lifeless corpses adorn the muck, sleet, and blood-filled ground, but the battle rages on. This successfully establishes that All Quiet on the Western Front has an anti-war and pro-peace theme. Writers Edward Berger, Lesley Paterson, and Ian Stokell even provide the characters with lines to help echo the general idea.
This German Netflix Original presents more than just one man’s tale. It focuses on one character, but the object of Edward Berger’s film is to communicate the unseen realities of war. Now, you may wonder what unseen reality is there after having already consumed innumerable war films. The question about what happens with trenches in the rain is answered in All Quiet on the Western Front. It is also answered when men come up against machines. In another scene, audiences munching on popcorn may even identify the presentation of another unseen reality.
A thing to note is that once in the trenches, sleet and muck cover both sets of uniforms, depending on the season. Hence, it’s hard to distinguish one from the other. War is just humans killing the one that comes to attack them, but not Germany vs The Allied powers. All Quiet on The Western Front shows that the fighting is rather confusing.
This film meticulously frames each visual. Right from the dialogues between two characters in the peace, to the trench right in the middle of the screen, James Friend positions the subject bang in the middle of the screen. Some amazing and visually spectacular moments that stuck with me were the aerial shot of patches of fire on the battlefield and the train coming out of a tunnel.
The title has the words ‘All Quiet’, which can have numerous meanings. Edward Berger ensures he covers all of them across 147 minutes. It is their dream on the western front as the fighting rages on. It is what they experience as they await updates from home. When they do get that quiet, they can’t relax, as the imminent bombardment is near and they mourn their fallen comrades.
What’s not good about All Quiet on the Western Front?
The Netflix film missed the opportunity of showing the young men’s families wondering about their safety. Cuts from houses in Germany to the trenches across Germany and France would have added emotional impact. The sight of people waiting in hope, or planning something for a promised homecoming, if merged with a soldier falling on the field of battle, would have enhanced the film’s message.
In going for a gory but real presentation of war, there are a few scenes that may be squeamish. They will convey the message, but twenty-first-century viewers may not be keen to consume twentieth-century horrors. Certain cinephiles may call it a gore fest. They will not be wrong.
The rock music right at the start didn’t fit in with the mood. Volker Bertelmann tried to pepper it with emotional cords later on, but it just proved to be distracting. Motivational music accompanying the characters successfully marching off to fight for their Kaiser would have been ideal.
The time jump is not nice as we quickly move from 1917 right to the armistice. Also, there would have been news about starvation on the front. Therefore, it seems quite bizarre that young men would run to war in such a scenario. I say this with the present-day lens, but seeing our protagonist munch a measly portion of dry bread showed that he wasn’t expecting such a meager ration. Hence, it certainly wasn’t normal for the time.
Should you watch Im Westen Nichts Nueus
All Quiet on The Western Front, a German WW1 film, can be seen as a timely reflection of the unfortunate present-day events in Europe. It does not pull its punches with the screenplay having the potential to make you squirm.
As one watches, they may begin to wonder what is the cost of the promised glory. Trauma remains in the minds of those who have lived and experienced the horrors. No one will ever be the same again and youthful minds will be quiet as they recollect the memories of war.
Im Westen Nichts Nueus has everything one can ask for in a war film. The film, which touches upon the loneliness, the catalyst of desperation, the fear of civilians in battle, and the chaos, is a devastating experience. Additionally, this movie provides audiences with a glimpse of the oft-forgotten aftermath of war. While the formal hostilities are done, the fighting can continue till the last second and beyond.
For the execution, the themes, the message, and the exquisite camera and framing, Germany’s Official Submission for the 95th Academy Awards (Best International Film) is unmissable.
All Quiet on The Western Front (Im Westen Nichts Nueus) is streaming on Netflix.