The last time a filmed adaptation of All Quiet on the Western Front was nominated for Best Picture, Variety suggested distribution by the League of Nations, its premiere was sabotaged by Hitler’s Brownshirts, and the film was banned in Australia for fear that it would undermine faith in the military. Its then-radical pacifistic message proved to be a prescient omen between two World Wars and the filmmaking language it’s credited with inventing became a blueprint for the entire war genre subsequent to its release.
The 2022 remake, a German-language Netflix production from relatively unknown director Edward Berger, attempts to argue for existence on the same grounds. A war in Ukraine and apparent proximity to nuclear catastrophe would suggest the need for a reminder of the horrors of war. In reality, the new All Quiet on the Western Front represents a lateral step in the history of the war film; it ironically retreads the same path of the genres’ previous decades while undercutting its own premise through distanced filmmaking and attempts at distinction.
The 2022 All Quiet on the Western Front opens cleverly, depicting a horrifying battle through the eyes of non-characters, all rapidly dying. Very quickly, we realize that the continuity between the opening and the main plot is the uniforms, taken off the dead men before being washed and recycled for the next stage of recruits.