‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ had potential to win Best Picture

Dennis Hudson
Dennis Hudson


There was a real chance “All Quiet on the Western Front” might have beaten “Everything Everywhere All at Once” for Best Picture.

Early in the night, the Netflix release picked up Oscar wins for International Film, Cinematography, Music and Production Design. Had it won an Adapted Screenplay prize, it could have marched to the top. While a remake doesn’t necessarily stand a chance at these things (Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story” came home with only one prize last year), “All Quiet” did stir things up.

Director Edward Berger put the audience in the trenches with his soldiers (not unlike “1917,” which did a better job of retaining the immediacy) and brought home the horrors of war.

Felix Kammerer stars in “All Quiet on the Western Front.” 

Felix Kammerer’s performance — as a young soldier who enlists in the German army during the closing days of World War I — was hard to ignore.

With mud caked on his face, he reacted to situations few had seen. As death spilled in front of him, he conveyed the pain of loss and tried to find calm in the midst of this storm.

Similarly, the film’s music made an impact. Relying heavily on three notes, composer Volker Bertelmann hammered home the gravity of the situation and surprised just as much as an enemy attack.

While Berger wasn’t as unrelenting as Sam Mendes in “1917” (he pulled away to show war games on a different level), he did find a way into the chaos that was admirable. Even though it was filmed in German, “All Quiet” scored because Kammerer was able to relay so much with just a look. Subtitles weren’t necessary.

A scene from the new edition of “All Quiet on the Western Front.” 

Felix Kammerer as Paul Bäumer in “All Quiet on the Western Front.”

A first-time actor, Kammerer was astounding. Trying to find a moment of quiet on the western front, he was constantly shoved into action and expected to perform. His was an unenviable task.

In the German version the performance resonates. While there’s a dubbed version, too, you should see the original. It gives you the nuance “All Quiet” needs.

Available this week on DVD, “All Quiet” should be able to reach those who don’t have Netflix. Even on a small screen, it makes big statements.

Also this week, “The Son” turns up on DVD. In it, Hugh Jackman plays the father of a young man who’s troubled by a number of changes in his life. Jackman delivered the kind of performance that triggered talk of an Oscar nod, but it didn’t materialize. The film, however, is still worth seeing. It unpacks plenty of contemporary issues and shows how parents can become oblivious to their children’s needs.


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Dennis Hudson
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