Why It Should Win Best Picture
Feb 14, 2023
Home Features All Quiet on the Western Front: Why It Should Win Best Picture
With stellar cinematography and creative storytelling, see why All Quiet on the Western Front deserves to win Best Picture.
As the unrelentingly brutal war film continues to rack up award nominations, All Quiet on the Western Front looks to have a big night at this year’s Academy Awards ceremony. With nine nominations to its name, All Quiet plans to follow the legacy of 2019’s Parasite as it hopes to become the second movie ever to secure Best Picture and Best International Feature Film. Though Variety predicts Everything Everywhere All at Once to take home the top prize, there’s a strong argument for the gruesome World War I movie to win the historic award.
Despite dissatisfactory reviews from German critics, All Quiet has received international acclaim for its astounding portrayal of The Great War through its outstanding technique and impressive execution. Many view this modern adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque’s 1928 novel as Netflix’s attempt to benefit from the Academy’s recent attraction to international filmmakers such as Bong Joon-Ho (Parasite), Alejandro González Iñárritu (Birdman and Revenant), and Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water). But all of these critiques seem to be a collective conspiracy to tear down the achievements of the first German-made movie to be nominated for Best Picture, for All Quiet on the Western Front is a formidable example of top-tier filmmaking.
100 Years of Cinema History
As many critics are quick to point out, the 2022 version of All Quiet deviates quite a bit from the original source material as well as the 1930 adaptation, which won Outstanding Production (the equivalent of Best Picture) at the 3rd Academy Awards. With nearly a hundred years separating the two adaptations, there is a clear distinction in the advancement of cinematic storytelling and filmmaking technology. Much like the films of the time, the original adaptation relies on theatrical techniques to inspire its composition, lighting, and acting performance. The heavy use of dialogue balances out the rattling explosions and tense battle sequences, making for a true epic of a movie during a time when sound films were just starting to be made.
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The 2022 adaptation, directed by Edward Berger, is an accomplishment in fierce immersion. This is mainly attributed to the advancements in cinematic techniques. The fluid camera movements, intimate close-ups, realistic special effects and sound editing, and historically accurate costuming and production design lend to a more immersive viewing experience — which the Academy has recognized with nominations in Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, Best Sound, Best Original Score, Best Visual Effects, and Best Makeup and Hairstyling. The scenes with heavy dialogue don’t contrast as starkly with the explosive battle scenes; they’re more seamless in their presentation and execution. And this is certainly an indicator of the changes in acting performances over the years when actors have developed new techniques in search of a more resonating truth. Overall, the differences between the two adaptations speak to the accelerated development over the course of cinema’s short hundred-year infancy.
A New Perspective on the Classic
One of the glaring differences between the 1930 adaptation and the 2022 edition is the country of origin and language spoken. As a German novel written by Remarque who, using his own experiences from fighting as a soldier during WWI, the book depicts a uniquely German story. Since the original Oscar-winning 1930 version was produced in America and featured English-speaking American actors, it is appropriate for the Academy to recognize the 2022 version for honoring the German perspective. Both films attempt to create an overarching message of “anti-war,” however, the 2022 version doesn’t embellish the message with American heroism or imbue the characters with a sense of false truth.
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This modern adaptation benefits from this new perspective as well as the ninety-plus years between each film. Though the newer rendition of All Quiet deviates immensely from the original text, the creative liberties taken by the filmmakers shouldn’t be taken with malice. The changes in the writing are pertinent exercises in bringing new context to an otherwise prevalent and historically well-known story, which deservedly received a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.
The deviations add to the immersion of the film, where the emotional volatility is increased through more intimate and gut-wrenching scenes. Moments such as Paul Bäumer (Felix Kammerer) reading a letter from Kat’s wife as the illiterate Kat (Albrecht Schuch) sobs next to him offer a more potent and delicate representation of the soldier’s experience. The portrayal of Kat and Paul stealing the goose is executed with more fraternity and camaraderie than the original adaptation’s depiction of Kat stealing the pig. And the added storyline of Matthias Erzberger (Daniel Brühl) rounds out the historical context that the 1930 film and the original text simply don’t have, for the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany had yet to manifest at the time of its incarnation.
From top to bottom, All Quiet on the Western Front stands as an exquisite yet horrifying example of immersive filmmaking. With stellar cinematography, creative storytelling, and a knack for historical accuracy, the legacy of the famous Remarque novel will hopefully continue with another Best Picture win.
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