Military Culture

Classic German WWI novel is getting the big screen treatment

Just one year after “All Quiet on the Western Front" was published, the classic World War I novel by German author and war veteran Erich Maria Remarque was made into a 1930 Oscar-winning feature film of the same name.

Ninety years later, the best-selling German novel ever is getting the big screen treatment once again — this time in its native language, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

“All Quiet on the Western Front” tells the story of Paul Bäumer, a young German who, along with his friends, enlists in the German army with lofty dreams of heroism and national pride.

Bäumer’s naivety is exposed, however, upon arriving to the trenches of the Western Front. There, death, terror, starvation, and filth dominate a soldier’s existence. For the soldiers in the mud, the mission is one mired in futility, and after returning home, the psychological damage of war leaves Bäumer feeling like a foreigner in his own home.

“This book is to be neither an accusation nor a confession, and least of all an adventure, for death is not an adventure to those who stand face to face with it,” Remarque writes in the book’s epigraph. “It will try simply to tell of a generation of men who, even though they may have escaped (its) shells, were destroyed by the war.”

Remarque’s honest portrayal of the realities of war would make him a target of emerging Nazi ideologies. By the end of 1933, owning a copy of “All Quiet on the Western Front” was considered a crime punishable by the Gestapo.

“'All Quiet on the Western Front’ may be set in 1918, but it speaks directly to our times and the divisive tone in today’s discourse,” the upcoming film’s director and Emmy nominee Emmy Berger told THR.

“It is a physical, visceral and very modern film that has never been told from my country’s perspective, it has never been made into a German-language film. We now have the chance to make an anti-war film that will truly touch our audience.”

Berger (“Deutschland ’83,” “Patrick Melrose”) will be joined on the production side by Malte Grunert, who lent his expertise to the thrilling German film, “Land of Mine” (2015), as well as the 2014 American crime drama, “A Most Wanted Man” (Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams).

Daniel Brühl was announced as one of the film’s stars and will co-produce, THR reported. The 41-year-old Spanish-German is known in the U.S. for starring in such films as “Rush” — alongside Chris Hemsworth — and Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglorious Basterds” (Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, Michael Fassbender).

“'All Quiet on the Western Front’ to this day is indeed the definitive novel about war and the utter senselessness of it,” Grunert told THR.

“War knows no heroes. One hundred years after its publication, ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ has retained all its impact and power. In the hands of Edward, it will be a very meaningful and contemporary take on the story, a powerful film and an impressive cinematic experience.”

The making of “All Quiet on the Western Front” continues a shift in focus by filmmakers to highlight the hellish conditions of World War I. The staggering conflict was recently the subject of Peter Jackson’s (“Lord of the Rings”) groundbreaking documentary, “They Shall Not Grow Old,” and was the subject of Sam Mendes’ internationally acclaimed Oscar-winning film, “1917.”

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