All Quiet on the Western Front Parent Guide
This movie is more enjoyable if you haven't read the book.
Parent Movie Review
When war breaks out in Europe in 1914, a generation of young men are swept into the fray. Paul Baumer (Felix Kammerer) and his school friends are not about to miss out on the opportunity to make history so they quickly sign up with the Imperial German Army. Shipped out to the fighting in France, Paul soon learns that war has very little to do with the high philosophical ideas and rampant nationalism of his teachers back home, and a good deal more to do with hunger, boredom, and soul-crushing terror. Thankfully, Paul has the company of good friends to fight alongside, not the least of whom is Stanislaus Katczinsky (Albrecht Such), a clever and resourceful man with a strong nose for food. As the war drags on and talks of a peace with France start percolating through the trenches, Paul begins to wonder if any of them will still be alive to see a world free from war.
The novel on which this film is based is told entirely from Paul’s perspective, limiting its focus to the experience of the individual soldier on the front. There are no references to broader tactics or strategy, let alone to international affairs and the early stages of the armistice. The film, on the other hand, has moved the timeline up to November of 1918, immediately before the signing of the Armistice, and included a number of scenes of general officers debating the course of the war, as well as politicians pursuing the peace talks.
Unfortunately, I think these alterations fundamentally weaken the major themes of the story, although I suspect they were made to try and make the story feel more poignant for filmgoers. Something, I should note, that the novel’s author specifically avoids: he opens the book by saying “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. 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.” The meaning of the story comes from the exploration of alienation between those fighting the war and those commanding it, and between the soldiers and the civilians back home, in the isolation Paul experiences even in the company of his comrades, and the powerful sense of futility which pervades the entire conflict from the soldiers’ perspective – not from some tragic sense that the war was nearly over. Does the death of a man in 1916 truly mean any less than if he had died on November 10th, 1918? Is his life rendered insignificant by a coincidence of the calendar?
Had I never read the novel, I might have had a better time with the film. It does many things competently and includes some stunning scenes of trench combat and wide-scale battle. Felix Kammerer certainly manages to look harrowed, and although Matthias Erzberger (a real person, instrumental in the German acceptance of the Armistice) is not in the novel, Daniel Bruhl certainly makes him an interesting and empathetic figure. I think if the film had concerned itself less with spectacle and more with the actual ideological thrust of the novel, it would have been more successful in capturing the character of the war. I would have liked to see how their skillful filmmaking could have brought to life Erich Maria Remarque’s incredible story.Directed by Edward Berger. Starring Daniel Brühl, Albrecht Schuch, Sebastian Hülk. Running time: 147 minutes. Theatrical release October 28, 2022. Updated October 28, 2022
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All Quiet on the Western Front
Rating & Content Info
Why is All Quiet on the Western Front rated R? All Quiet on the Western Front is rated R by the MPAA for strong bloody war violence and grisly images.
Violence: Characters are frequently stabbed, shot, blown up, burned alive, crushed, and slashed to death. Corpses are seen with graphic injuries, including exposed bone and organs. A character is seen in the process of having their arm amputated. A man is seen committing suicide by stabbing himself in the neck with a fork.
Sexual Content: There is a brief reference to a sexual encounter, and men are seen passing around a pair of women’s underwear.
Profanity: The script contains two sexual expletives, nine scatological terms, and occasional uses of mild curses or terms of deity.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Adult characters are seen smoking and drinking socially.
Page last updated October 28, 2022
All Quiet on the Western Front Parents' Guide
What are some of the ideas in Remarque’s novel that don’t appear in this film? What scenes are more accurate to the book? How do they inform the characters? What was the contemporary response to the novel? How has it been seen since?
Loved this movie? Try these books…
Obviously, you should read the original novel, All Quiet on the Western Front or its sequel, The Road Back. Other books about the war include The Wars by Timothy Findley, or A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway. I would also recommend poems like In Flanders Fields by John McRaeand Dulce Et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen.
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Remarque’s novel was more accurately adapted in 1930’s All Quiet on the Western Front. Other looks at the so-called Great War in film include 1917, Beneath Hill 60, Joyeux Noel, Passchendaele, Gallipoli, War Horse, and one of my personal favorites, Paths of Glory. Peter Jackson’s incredible documentary They Shall Not Grow Old is also a must-watch for anyone interested in the conflict.