Many Oscar nominations for the Netflix Original production All Quiet on the Western Front Edward Berger’s new version of the World War I masterpiece written by Eric Maria Remarque. Mauro Donzelli’s review.
A few hundred meters. This is how far the Western Front swung from the first to the last day of the First World War. Four years and millions of dead. A madness surpassed in numbers by the Second World War, but which had a crucial historical importance in exploding the dramatic contradictions of the short century. It is undoubtedly one of the masterpieces of literature on those years Nothing new on the western front Of Eric Maria Remarquealready brought to the screen in a 1930 classic – one year after publication – by Lewis Minestrone (and in a late 1970s television version), which has meanwhile become a cornerstone of anti-war storytelling. Needless to talk about remakes, of course, but about new adaptationby the way definitely freer and quite away from the plot of the novelfor this work of Edward Bergerpassed for the narration on a historical background of other passages of the German nation such as the remarkable series Deutschland 1983.
Nothing new on the western front tells of a group of friends, teenagers who grew up full of nationalistic ideals and love of country, fascinated by the lessons given by a teacher, who want to pass from words and slogans to deeds as soon as possible, enlisting after the first months of war with the certainty of occupy Paris in a short time, just as happened to their grandparents in 1871 with the proclamation of the (First) Reich during the Franco-Prussian war. A enthusiasm immediately cooled by the violent clash with life in the trenches, with the privations of the first war fully modern, in terms of extermination and global involvement, but stubbornly ancient in terms of the massacre of the lower social classes, sent to certain death by incompetent and stubborn officerslocked in their apartments between cigarettes and quality drinks while their troops were starving and freezing.
Just a parallel look at the meetings between the military leaders preparing for the signing of the armistice represents the main varianttogether with the few fleeting moments dedicated to the youthful indoctrination of the protagonists, the main variation of this version with respect to the source material. Short moments but capable of skilfully synthesizing the madness of a dead end of violence fueled by calculations and spite, false pride, stubbornness and principles capable of convincing just in the noble halls of the headquarters buildings, with no interest in reality, among the soldiers and those who stayed at home, while the world was changing under the pressure of a nationalism that had destroyed the very concept of universalism and with it the nineteenth-century empires. The role of bearer of a breath of rationality, representing the German government, belongs in the film to the Catholic politician played by Daniel Bruehl.
The heartbreaking contrast remains between a nature suspended but ready to retake the proscenium with its instinctive beauty, while for years generations of Europeans were sent to slaughter, often for the first time away from home more than a few hours of walking. Death loses its absolute value to become banal routine, no longer exceptional but a constant round of the carousel in which chance chooses the new extracts. A sensorial brutality that imposes itself from the very first images, in this work that is noble in its intentions and successful in its epic and at the same time intimate scope, also and especially today that European countryside returns not too dissimilar to testify to the implacable madness of every conflict. A ritual also in putting an end to life, except for granting a moment of awakening to humanity in a melee that allows you to recognize a person, no longer just an enemy, who seen in the mirror appears with a uniform and a helmet just a little ‘ different.
A desperate and hopeless portrait, gray and brown like mud, with the only touches of color represented by the red of the blood. “I’m afraid of the future”, one of the protagonists says towards the end, accompanying that tragic limbo of the days of the end of the war, in which the years passed while still alive seem more of a burden than a relief, and returning home is so close and at hand that it is even more frightening than continuing to share a trench with friends of a parallel and infernal reality from which it is impossible to return to the real one, which in the meantime has changed forever.