All Quiet On The Western Front: Everything We Know So Far

Later in 2022 — as announced in Variety — Netflix will be releasing a new adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque's novel "All Quiet on the Western Front," a work that you probably read in the ninth grade. The new film, a German production shot outside of Prague and presented in English, was produced by international celebrity Daniel Brühl ("Inglourious Basterds," "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier"), who will play the real-life German politician Matthias Erzberger in the film. Felix Kammerer will play Paul Bäumer, the main character from the book. Also in the cast are German actors Devid Striesow, Andreas Döhler, Albrecht Schuch, Aaron Hilmer, Moritz Klaus, and Edin Hasanovic.

German director Edward Burger will direct. Berger, not a well-known quantity in the United States, has spent the bulk of his directorial career in German television, having recently worked on series like "Deutschland 83," and "The Terror." Berger also directed three episodes of the Russel T. Davies show "Your Honor" with Bryan Cranston, and all five episodes of the miniseries "Patrick Melrose" with Benedict Cumberbatch. His only theatrical feature film to date was the 2019 festival release "All My Loving." 

The cinematographer will be James Friend, a frequent collaborator of Berger's, who has worked on Ozzy Osbourne music videos, a Robbie Williams TV special, and an episode of the 2014 "Street Fighter: Assassin's Fist." Friend is currently working on the upcoming "Willow" TV series.

The novel

Erich Maria Remarque's novel "Im Westen nicht Neues" (literally: "In the West, Nothing New") was first published in Germany in November of 1928, and was first translated into English by A.W. Wheen in 1929, with the title changed to "All Quiet on the Western Front." The novel tells the harrowing, hopeless story of German soldiers fighting in the battlefield trenches of World War I, mostly through the eyes of a young Everyman named Paul Bäumer (the name of a real soldier, although not based on that soldier's experience), who begins the war as a patriotic idealist, but soon becomes worn down by struggle and violence into a hardened, cynical nihilist. Soldiers' souls eventually drain from their bodies as shock and survival take over anything that was once human. 

"All Quiet" was based very directly on the wartime experiences of Remarque, who was conscripted to the German army in 1917 and did indeed fight on the Western Front. He was injured from shrapnel and waited out the war in a hospital bed.

"All Quiet" has been adapted to film or TV on two occasions in the past, most notably, Lewis Milestone's 1930 film version which won Best Picture at the Academy Awards, and remains to this day one of the best war movies ever made. No film has been more effective in detailing the horror of war, explicit that there is no honor or patriotism in combat. There is only death begetting death.

In 1979, CBS adapted the book into a Golden Globe-winning, but now-little-discussed TV movie with Ernest Borgnine and Donald Pleasance.

The Netflix version

Variety first reported on the details of this version of "All Quiet" in December of 2020, declaring it to be one of the most expensive German productions to date. From the look of the promotional stills, the new film will be true to the spirit of the book in depicting war as grey, unglamorous, and horrifying. 

Even beyond Remarque's book, reports of life in the trenches of World War I are endlessly harrowing. There was little fresh food, mud got everywhere, and the communal toilets were hardly sanitary. And this is ignoring the constant threat of mustard gas, shrapnel, tank attacks, and whizzing bullets. "All Quiet," one can see, will take the exhilaration away from war. Berger, in Variety, was quoted as saying that his new film will be a "physical, visceral and very modern film that has never been told from my country's perspective."

A previous version of "All Quiet," announced in Variety in 2014, was eventually scrapped. Variety reported in 2020 that Berger's Brühl-produced version would be the project to move forward. This will be, as Berger said, the first version of the story to be made by a German production company. The 1930 film was English, and the TV miniseries was from America. 

"All Quiet on the Western Front" will debut on Netflix in 2022.