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Not Surprising That All Quiet On The Western Front Has Swept The BAFTA



All Quiet On The Western Front

It came  as  no surprise when the  German anti-war drama All Quiet on the Western Front swept the BAFTA Awards 2023, including Best Film, Best Director and Best Film, defeating the  other popular nominees Elvis(a terrible biopic which does  a  huge  disservice to Presley)  and  The Banshees  Of Insherin(a  brilliant  study of  ennui and nostalgia).

Edward  Berger’s  All Quiet On The Western Front is that rarity that  has the potential  to change the  way we look at war and  territorial aggression  specially now  when Ukraine fights for its space.

There  is no need to  hold an Oscars ceremony this year. All the main awards, excluding best Actress(boys  go to war, not girls) should go to  Edward Berger’s  German  instant-classic  All Quiet on the Western Front ( Im Westen nichts Neues in German) .Based on the 1929 novel of by Erich Maria Remarque it takes us right to into the trenches with the soldiers  during World  War 1 , giving us no  comfort of  distance.No solace of  detachment.

Sometimes we feel so close  to  the  savagery  that  it becomes hard to breathe.In 2017 Christopher Nolan’s  Dunkirk had  hurled us into trenches. This one goes many steps ahead. The naïve  German soldier Paul Baumer(Felix Kammerer)’s journey across the death  valley from one battlefield to another, flings us  so close to  Paul we can smell his fear of death,  hunger , loneliness and that creeping sense of this-couldn’t-be-happening-to-me unreality.

There are  some  deeply  disturbing visuals in All Quiet On The Western Front.  If you are averse  to blood and gore, this film may upset you deeply. But  especially now, when Ukraine is ferociously fighting  the Russian bullies for its sovereignty , the relevance  of this film cannot be  overstated.

While its anti-war message,the sheer futility of  young boys barely out of school, fighting for…what?They’ve no idea….while the message is  the core, the   inhumanity  of hurling mere  boys to their death, is what  we come away with from in this unquestionable masterpiece, streaming on  Netflix.

This is barbarism  of the most brutal and selfserving variety.Why are these  boys sent to their  brutal death knowing that  the battle they were fighting served no  purpose except to allow politicians to send billions on weaponry  which  are best left to rust in peace.

Director  Edward Berges spares  us  none  of  the details, legs and arms are routinely blown off. But that is not the prime focus here. The physical butchery is  only part of the  suffering that  soldiers suffered as World War 1  takes them  down the path of annihilation. And  who gives a damn about the thousands who  perish in battle?  Certainly not  the senior generals who sit in  plush luxury,  gorging on  gourmet  while  thousands of foot soldiers starve and die(not of starvation  but far more brutal death).

I am not too sure  the  portrayal  of  the army generals is fair or even authentic.I would rather focus on  the struggle  to survive that  goes on each second in the trenches.The most unforgettable of these moments is when Paul  is trapped in the trench with an enemy soldier. He  knives and almost kills the  enemy for self defence and then  watching the soldier splutter  and  shiver .Paul is filled  with a profound remorse. I could hear his pain. In my second-most favourite moment of   battle violence, a seriously wounded soldier takes  the fork from his  soup tray and stabs himself in the neck repeatedly.

All Quiet On The Waterfront is arguably the most humane and brutal indictment   on the futility of way. It is  strongly recommended  for those who seriously think it is  brave to give up your life on battlefront. A peerless achievement,  it makes all the great films  about love, friendship, sexuality and marriage that came to us in 2022 look so trivial.

A  special mention of James Friend’s  epic  cinematography : the camera lens  stands back to  see the savagery  on  the battlefield and simultaneously zooms in on the indescribable  suffering  of  the  individual soldiers. How do they do it?

Oh yes, a ladies’  scarf and  a  stolen rooster play  vital parts  in this  film. These are the moments where we  smile even as the world goes completely insane.

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