Rebooting movies and crafting movies about war seem to be favorite hobbies of movie makers. From the advent of the motion picture to the modern era, Hollywood’s major movie studios have churned out countless reboots, many of which have been movies about war. In 1930, studios’ habit of rebooting movies took an important new turn when Universal Pictures released the first cinematic adaptation of author Eric Maria Remarque’s now timeless novel, All Quiet on the Western Front. At the time, the movie broke new ground with its explicit depictions of the horrors of war. That was because it was not until 1934, when the Hays Code — also known as the Motion Picture Production Code – was established that any real regulation was in place to monitor movies’ content. Almost half a century would pass before the movie would see the light of day again – in 1979 on CBS — with a made for TV rendition of the story that starred Richard Thomas (It, Battle Beyond The Stars, The Waltons) and Ernest Borgnine (Spongebob Squarepants, The Poseidon Adventure, Airwolf) in the lead roles. Late last year, the movie received what is only its second reboot, courtesy of Netflix, capelight Pictures and Amusement Park Film. The new take on the story – which came more than four decades after the 1979 made for TV movie take on the story — earned nine Oscar® nominations and won in six of the categories for which it was nominated. Now Tuesday, the award-nominated and winning movie will be released on 4K UHD/Blu-ray combo pack through the noted companies and mpi Media Group. The movie is just as engaging and entertaining in its physical home release as in its streaming debut last year, if not more so. That is due in part to its extensive bonus content, which will be discussed shortly. In examining the movie itself, there is plenty to appreciate, not the least of which being its cinematography, which will be discussed a little later. The work of the movie’s cast rounds out its most important elements and will also be discussed later. Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the movie’s presentation. All things considered they make the new home release of All Quiet on the Western Front one of the best of this year’s new home movie releases.
Netflix/capelight Pictures/Amusement Park Film’s brand new 4K UHD/Blu-ray combo pack release of the new All Quiet on the Western Front reboot is a powerful, engaging new take on the timeless story from author Eric Maria Remarque. It is not an easy presentation to take in because it is so intense, and requires audiences truly to be in a specific mindset in order to fully be appreciated. That needs to be noted right off the top. Having noted that, there is a lot to appreciate for those who take the time to take in the movie in its new physical release, not the least of which is its bonus content. The most important of that bonus content comes in the form of the printed interviews in the movie’s companion 24-page booklet. The interviews are with director Edward Berger and historian/professor Daniel Schonpflug. The information that each man shares in his respective interview is important to the movie because of the background that it adds to the movie’s presentation.
Berger, for instance, talks during his interview, about how he and the movie’s other creative heads developed the fight scenes online as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic preventing them from meeting in person. He notes in this discussion, those involved in the movie’s creation were spread across three continents, so coming together to develop the battle scenes was not an easy feat. On the matter of developing the story for the reboot, Berger also addresses the noted heavy emotional sense that permeates the movie. He said making the story so emotionally heavy was intentional because of how the war impacted Germany and its citizens. Speaking of that impact, Berger notes the fallout of the war, including how the kaiser ended up abdicating his rule and thus left the country essentially in a state of anarchy. This is something that is rarely if ever taught in American classrooms at any level.
As if all of this is not enough for audiences, Berger also discusses working with actor Felix Kammerer, who played the role of Paul in this outing. He had only positive comments about Kammerer in that discussion, and justifiably so. This will be addressed a little bit more later. He also talks about keeping himself grounded and focused while making the movie. In simple terms, this is a discussion on not letting his ego get the better of himself, which clearly paid off in watching the movie. There is even a mention of fellow famed movie maker Stanley Kubrick in these discussions that is certain to engage audiences.
Schonpflug’s discussions build even more on those from Berger. Schonpflug takes on topics, such as Remarque’s own experience as a conscripted soldier in the German army as it relates to his timeless novel. That is another item that few if any American teachers bring into discussions on this novel when they introduce the book to students. The revelation that Schonpflug makes here is enlightening to say the least. On an equally interesting note, Schonpflug also notes that in Germany, All Quiet on the Western Front was actually censored – and even burned – by the government at different points because of its overarching anti-war message. Yet again here is something that is rarely if ever taught about the book in American classrooms at any level. The shock of the realization is engaging in its own right and is just as certain to get audiences to start doing their own deeper research into the book.
As if all of this is not enough, Schonpflug also addresses how much of the war Remarque left out of the book, and his praise for Berger’s take on the novel in two more separate discussions. In regards to how Remarque presented the war in his novel, Schonpflug changed a number of scenes from his early drafts at the request of his then publisher. He gives the example of the moment Paul kills a French soldier, and the impact that it has on him. Berger adds that moment into this reboot, but changes it in his own way from the novel’s presentation. Schonpflug notes other changes Berger made to his take on the story in his thoughts on how Berger handled the movie, speaking of the changes. In the end, he praises Berger, saying Berger has fully succeeded in his imagining of the story. He is definitely right in that commentary.
Between the commentary addressed here and so much more, the overall commentaries provided by Berger and Schonpflug in their respective interviews makes for so much engagement, entertainment and appreciation for this latest take on All Quiet on the Western Front. The interviews are just some of the bonus content that audiences will appreciate, too. The in-depth “making of” featurette and the feature-length audio commentary builds even more on the foundation even more that was established through the interviews. All things considered, the bonus content that accompanies All Quiet on the Western Front in its new 4K UHD/Blu-ray presentation more than makes for reason for audiences to take in this movie in its new physical presentation.
The bonus content that accompanies the movie’s new physical release is just part of what makes the movie worth watching. Its cinematography makes for its own share of engagement and entertainment. This is clearly exhibited in the noted battle scenes on the front. The way the cameras move through the trenches and capture the frantic nature of the battles is so powerful in its own right. Seeing the smoke of the gas and from the shots fired as the soldiers make their way across the battlefield is just as intense and gripping. On the same note, a calmer moment, such as when Paul, Kat, Tjaden and the other soldiers are relaxing, enjoying the cooked goose is just as rich in its color and angles. Seeing the men admiring the French woman from a distance as they pass by really goes to show such a nice wide shot of the land. On a related note, Schonpflug also addresses the reality of sexual violence committed against French women by German soldiers in his interview. That is another eye-opening revelation that is never taught here in the U.S. about World War I. Even the opening scene of Paul and his friends planning to join the German Army is strong in its own right. That is because of the peacefulness and color of the buildings and streets in their hometown. It is a subtle, perhaps unintended, message, but becomes deep when one considers how such a town likely looked after the war. When audiences take into account Berger’s statements about his deliberate approach to getting every shot right, it adds even more to the appreciation for the work that went into the cinematography. Between these examples and so many others available to note, the whole of the movie’s cinematography makes for its own exceptional presentation and experience for viewers. The result is a foundation that is strengthened all the more for the presentation.
The work of the cast strengthens that foundation even more, beginning with and not limited to the work of Kammerer. To think that Kammerer’s first day in the movie industry was the first day of principal photography for the movie, he ended up presenting quite the talent throughout the movie. From a bright-eyed young recruit who lied to get into the German Army to a very quickly more seasoned soldier, hardened by combat, to eventually, a young man who realized the fallacy of what he was doing, Kammerer is to be applauded throughout the story. Case in point is Paul’s shock of having to collect dog tags from other, dead soldiers in his first experience in the trenches. One of those soldiers was one of his own friends. The tears that he shed, and having to keep going were the beginning of that change that Paul underwent. Thankfully, Kat took him under his wing and helped him to retain a certain amount of his humanity before things got even worse as the story progressed. The look of shock as he stabs the French soldier and then realizes what he had done, resulting in so much sadness and shame, is another of the most powerful moments in Paul’s change. That is because it is really at that moment he realized the fallacy of what he and the rest of the army were doing. That epiphany humanized Paul all the more, and continued to show Kammerer’s talent as an actor. Kammerer’s portrayal as Paul and another new group of soldiers is sent back to the front near the war’s end continues to show that talent, too. He portrays Paul as someone who is just fed up with it all and wants to go home like everyone else but knows he has a job to do. The way in which Kammerer carries himself in the moment makes a person feel so much for him at that very moment. What happens to Paul in the impending battle (which will not be revealed here for the sake of those who have not yet seen the movie) makes the outcome all the more hard hitting, emotionally.
Albrecht Schuch (System Crasher, Berlin Alexanderplatz, Mitten in Deutschland: NSU), who plays the part of Kat – Stanislaus Katczinsky – is also to be applauded for his own work opposite Kammerer. That is because of the way in which he manages to help keep Paul grounded. The focus that he brings out of Kat even in the intensity of battle helps to show the experience that Kat already had by the time Paul came into the war. His sensitivity as he talks about wanting to be back with his wife and the vulnerability that he brings out of Kat as he addresses his son’s death from smallpox makes him an even more endearing figure. To a point, audiences can actually argue that Schuch’s portrayal of Kat makes Kat something of, perhaps, a father figure to Paul even more than just a friend. It is that presence that helps to make Kat and Paul so enjoyable to watch together throughout the movie and just another example of the importance of the cast’s work.
On yet another note, the cast members who took on the role of the German and French officials on board the train deserve their own applause. Yes, they were largely supporting cast in the case of this movie, but the tension that they manage to create amongst themselves when they are on screen is fully believable, even though it is known that this moment was somewhat fictionalized. They include Daniel Bruhl as German diplomat Matthias Erzberger and Thibault de Montalembert as French General Ferdinand Foch. Devid Striesow (The Counterfeiters, Before The Fall, Downfall) is just as deserving of applause in his role as General Friedrichs. That is because of the contrast that he creates to the more level-headed approach of Erzberger, who was determined to bring the conflict to an end and save Germany any more suffering. Now, Friedrichs is not a real person. He was a character created for this take on the timeless anti-war protest story, but that aside, the way in which Striesow brings Friedrichs to life is so worthy of applause. That is because he shows that insistence that Germany fight on even as peace is being negotiated. Even before then, there is another scene in which Striesow leaves audiences wondering if Friedrichs is going to take his own life as he recalls the military successes of his father and grandfather. Interestingly he does not end up taking his own life, but that moment is so powerful in its simplicity and Striesow’s performance. Between his work and that of Bruhl, de Montalembert, and other supporting cast, their work proves just as important as that of the lead cast. When all of that work is collectively considered the result is a group of performances that makes for just as much engagement as the work of those behind the cameras, bringing the story to life. When all of that work is considered alongside the movie’s bonus content, the whole therein together with the overall story makes the new home physical release of All Quiet on the Western Front a must see, at least once, and a rare reboot that is actually worth watching.
Netflix/capelight Pictures/Amusement Park Film’s 2022 reboot of All Quiet on the Western Front is a surprisingly engaging presentation. That is because it proves itself a reboot that is actually worth watching. Its appeal comes in part through the bonus content that accompanies the movie’s new physical home release. The interviews with its director Edward Berger and historian/professor Daniel Schonpflug are among the most interesting of the bonus features. That is because of the background and history that the pair offer regarding the new movie, the book, and how each stacks up against the real story of Germany’s role in the first World War. The feature-length audio commentary and the standard “making of” featurette build on the foundation formed by the interviews to make for even more engagement and entertainment. The overall foundation formed therein is strengthened even more through the movie’s cinematography, which is just as engaging, what with the angles, the use of lighting and even something as simple as filters. The gritty portrayal of the battles and the contrast of the calm of the countryside make that clear. The work of the movie’s cast, both lead and supporting, builds even more on that foundation and puts the finishing touch to the presentation. That is because each actor’s work is so believable. Each item examined is important in its own way to the whole of the movie. All things considered they make this new physical home release of All Quiet on the Western Front one of the surprisingly best of this year’s new home releases.
All Quiet on the Western Front is scheduled for release Tuesday on 4K UHD/Blu-ray. The trailer for the new reboot of All Quiet on the Western Front is streaming here. More information on this and other titles from Netflix is available at:
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