All Quiet on the Western FrontProducer on Film’s Resonance, Oscars – The Hollywood Reporter
Edward Berger All Quiet on the Western Front It was an unexpected journey to become an Oscar frontrunner. The war drama launched on Netflix in Toronto last year, but has been building momentum since then. Proving to be equally popular with critics and industry professionals – All is quiet It swept the BAFTAs this year, taking home seven awards, including Best Picture, Best Director and most art awards – the film suddenly became a major player at the Academy Awards, not only as Best International Fiction nominee, but in all nine categories in which it was nominated, including Its the best picture.
No one was more surprised by the film’s global success than producer Malte Grunert. Grunert has some Academy Award experience (he was a co-producer on the 2015 Best International Film nominee mine land) But never expected that the first German adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque’s classic anti-war novel, about the trials of an ordinary soldier in the trenches of World War I, would have such resonance with a global audience.
Have you been surprised at how the international and academic audiences have responded All Quiet on the Western Front?
The reaction and resonance of the film, on this scale, surprised me, yeah. There is clearly an awful and highly unwanted connection to the story because of the war in Ukraine. If you look at photos from the Ukrainian front and compare them with historical photos from the Western front, the similarities are shocking. This gives the film a relevance in time that we neither expected nor expected nor wanted.
The reason we felt the film was relevant to make now is the story of five boys who fall prey to propaganda and nationalist lies and go to war thinking it will be an adventure. It is a rhetoric and a tone that has entered the political discourse again, this kind of right-wing propaganda. The film is not just a reminder of the real horrors of war. [it] It can also, as with Remarque’s novel, remind us of what happens if we succumb to this propaganda and do not resist it as a society.
What is it about Remarque’s novel, nearly 100 years old, that gives it such staying power?
Remarque’s literary language is very, very contemporary. If you read it today, you won’t feel 100 years old. Her language doesn’t look old at all. Another thing is Remarque’s very distinct perspective on war. Most war films are American or British, and those countries have a very different perspective on war. So, they got involved in two world wars, defended themselves, and won. They liberated Europe from Nazi terror after World War II. This perspective allows their war stories to be stories of heroes and hero’s journeys. The German perspective can only be a different perspective. The German perspective is one of guilt, shame and responsibility, we hope. This version is different from most of the war stories we see.
Is it a little ironic that he’s one of your biggest competitors at the Academy Awards? Top Gun: MaverickWhat is a military force ceremony?
There is a completely different perspective on the war with Top Gun: Maverick, clearly. But it’s a well-made fantasy movie with a huge star in the lead role, and it’s a completely different story to tell. [Maverick is] A story that I think a German director would find difficult to tell. Not surprisingly, this is a completely different perspective. But I wouldn’t say it’s ironic that we’re both candidates. It is an expression of these two different points of view.
Do you think the Academy Awards are becoming more open to different, more global points of view? A few years ago, the idea of a non-English-language film receiving nine nominations would have been unthinkable.
There certainly seems to be a change in terms of audience resonance for non-English language films: parasite Winning Best Korean Film, OR the artistIt can be said that it is a French film, although there is no dialogue. There seems to be a change in audience reception, and I think this is not only because of theatrical films, but mostly because of series and banners. The massive success of [Netflix’s] NarcosAnd Stealing money or dark He brought with him an audience with a desire to watch films in the original language, to read subtitles. This is definitely different than it was 20 years ago.
How do you make an anti-war movie with such an epic scope of war and battles without romanticizing it or turning it into an adventure movie?
The first decision we made was to stay true to Remarque’s novel and the novel’s perspective. This is the story of an ordinary soldier’s experience in war. We thought a lot about depicting violence. How much do we want? Edward Berger, DP, and James Friend, and I believed that for it to be a war movie, there had to be some level of violence; Otherwise, you will not feel sincere. At the same time, we never wanted violence to be exploitative. We wanted the violence to be at a level that would allow an audience of 15 or 16 to go see the movie. It was also important to show identical violence whether it happened to friend or foe. And it is the same in Remarque’s novel: the death of an enemy is never a good thing. The death of an enemy is no less terrible than the death of a friend.
This book has been modified by course. Lewis Milestone’s classic won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1930. What do you think your film could have done differently?
Iconic 1930 film [and] Part of the history of the movie. It’s a beautifully made movie that will forever be in the repertoire of great movies, not just great war movies. Every time you take a piece of literature and adapt it for the screen, you always need to make changes. we [added] A whole new story not in the novel about the armistice negotiations. It’s a very valuable addition because it puts things into context. Obviously, when Remarque wrote the novel, and when Lewis Milestone directed the first film adaptation, they had no sense of what was yet to come. So for us to create this connection between the two world wars, showing that the end of World War I was really the beginning of the next horror, felt like a very worthwhile change and addition.
Obviously you made it All is quiet Before the war started in Ukraine, but do you think your film can contribute to the discussion about the war?
The situation closest to the film is probably that of poor young Russian conscripts who believe the propaganda they hear at home and are sent to Ukraine believing they are entering a just war. I’ve read articles about them being handed over used uniforms when they arrive in Ukraine, kind of like we show in our movie. But I wouldn’t dare say our film is intended or able to actually influence discussion or decisions about how to handle the war in Ukraine.
The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
This story first appeared in the independent February issue of The Hollywood Reporter. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.