Director Edward Berger said that what intrigued him most about the prospect of adapting Erich Maria Remarque’s world-renowned bestselling book All Quiet on the Western Front into a film was the chance to tell the story in his native German language.
While the film has been made for film and television by American filmmakers, Berger was compelled to bring his own version of the gripping story of a young German soldier on the Western Front of World War I to the screen.
“As an American or British filmmaker, you have a very different history towards both wars,” the German director said on a panel for the Netflix film with his stars Daniel Brühl and Felix Kammerer at Deadline’s Contenders Film: International awards-season event. “You have a history that you were attacked and that both countries defended themselves and that they were roped into war against their will and out of it came stories of heroism or honor and generations to come looked on it with a sense of pride, besides all of the grief of course. But at least there is a different legacy.
“In Germany, there is nothing of pride or honor that you can look back on,” he continued. “There is shame or a sense of terror or responsibility towards history and if you make that film as a German filmmaker in the German language and it is a German book, that film hopefully turns out to be very different than an American or a British film.”
The film, which was chosen as Germany’s International Feature Oscar submission, stars Kammerer as Paul, who experiences first-hand how the initial euphoria of war turns into desperation and fear as soldiers fight for their lives and each other in the trenches. Brühl also stars as Matthias Erzberger, “a brave man” who “criticized the politics of the German Reich throughout his career.”
Speaking about a scene in the film where Erzberger is encouraging an armistice between military and political French and German figures on a train, Brühl said, “I was inspired to play him because he’s the only human voice in this train in these scenes. Artistically, I found it very interesting that it’s shocking to see that it all comes down to these men in the train hesitant to sign the peace treaty, and the fate of all of these thousands of young solders depends on these military [men] and politicians.”
Check back Monday for the panel video.