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Netflix’s version of how not to make a war novel adaptation: “All Quiet on the Western Front”

On Oct. 14, 2022 Netflix released their rendition of the popular World War I novel “All Quiet on the Western Front.” Seen from the perspective of a young German soldier, the film captures the raw emotions from the battlefields of the Great War. The youthful soldiers quickly realized that the situation they had gotten themselves into was not all it was cracked up to be. The film’s use of special effects and music created an eerie and frightening atmosphere that made trench warfare feel a little too real for the viewer. However, the movie felt off. Something felt wrong and almost Hollywoodized in an effort to capitalize on the emotions of the viewer. The film abused creative liberty and strayed too far off of the book, making the 2 hour and 23 minute movie ultimately pointless.

Many people read the novel in their high school literature classes. I, however, was not one of those lucky few. The events of the movie surprised me and it caused me to be upset and rightfully disturbed by the scenes of war and violence. But, the movie was predictable. When the two main characters, Paul and Katzinsky, go to steal a goose from a farmer, what else would you expect but for them to get caught? With images of the German soldiers watching in horror as the earth shook from within their trenche, what else could happen than the enemy tanks rolling closer to their position, creating nauseating suspense as their fates became ingrained in stone? Not only that, but the final scene of the movie was 2 hours and 23 minutes in the making, and it’s not even how it happens in the book. No, I did not read the book, but some of the scenes felt so cliche that I could not help but read the plot of the novel, and additionally had a friend who read the book explain to me what happened. I understand that not everything from a text can be put into a movie, but if you are going to create a war movie off of a classic war novel, make sure you do it correctly or don’t do it at all.

A plot should not push people away from a movie. The foreign film focuses on fresh fledgling German and Austrian actors as they portray the young and nationalistic German soldiers. This was a big role for lead actor Felix Kammerer, who played Paul. With him was Albrich Schuch as Katszinsky and Aaron Hilmer as Klopp. They stood beside veteran actor Daniel Brühl, known for his role as the Nazi Fredrick Zoller in “Inglourious Basterds,” whose character helped keep the film’s plot on track and provided a reason for viewers to watch the film, since he is a household name in America. 

Overall, the film was beautiful scenic-wise and really milked the emotions out of its audience. It almost feels like propaganda. But to a viewer who has not read the book, the movie covers the actual realities of what happened, and that makes the movie a bit of a turn off. Viewers should be aware of the changes made and the freedoms taken in this questionable adaptation. It is worth a watch, but it is a reminder to not trust everything you watch. 


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