Since Germany’s Oscar entry All Quiet on the Western Front was also nominated as Best Picture, it’s an obvious indicator that this powerful World War I picture – with a total of nine nominations – will win the International category.
Adapted by writer/director Edward Berger from Erich Maria Remarque’s 1929 novel, it follows idealistic young Germans, caught in patriotic fervor, as they proudly enlist to serve for “the Kaiser, God and the Fatherland,” marching off to war in France, only to find themselves mired in muck, facing almost certain death.
Foremost among them is Paul Baumer (Felix Kammerer), who notes: “The stench will remain on us forever.” In a particularly memorable scene, Paul repeatedly stabs a gun-toting French soldier in brutal hand-to-hand combat. But when the Frenchman doesn’t immediately die, tortured Paul is ashamed and begins to try to clean his victim’s face.
There’s no heroics or valor here. The hungry men scrounge for food and barely survive bloody battle after battle. It’s just realistic conflict, resulting in senseless carnage.
Meanwhile cease-fire negotiations are underway between the German armistice chairman, Matthias Erzberger (Daniel Bruhl), and his French counterpart – and the cruel defiance by fascistic German General Friedrich (David Strieshow) who sacrifices his remaining troops.
FYI: Louis Milestone’s Hollywood version won Best Picture in 1930 – and its message is as relevant today as it was then, evoking thoughts of what young Russians may feel as they’re shipped off to fight in Ukraine.
In German with English subtitles, All Quiet on the Western Front is an immersive, authentic, anti-war 8, streaming on Netflix.