‘All Quiet On The Western Front’: Read The Screenplay That Turned The Classic German Novel Into A German Movie For The First Time

Editors noteDeadline’s Read the Screenplay series debuts and celebrates the scripts of films that will factor in this year’s movie awards races.

The last time Erich Maria Remarque’s classic anti-war novel All Quiet on the Western Front was made as a theatrical motion picture was nearly a century ago, and it went on to take home Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director. Netflix’s update on the story of the horrors of war has already won the Best Adapted Screenplay prize from the National Board of Review.

The Academy clearly appreciates the gritty German-language movie directed by Edward Berger, who shares screenplay credit with Lesley Paterson and Ian Stokell. It appeared on all five of the Oscar shortlists for which it was eligible: Makeup and Hairstyling, Sound, Visual Effects, Music Score and International Film. Deadline’s Pete Hammond thinks it has a shot in other categories including Best Picture, Director and Adapted Screenplay.

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The film tells the story for the first time from the German point of view. It follows Paul (Felix Kammerer), a young German soldier on the Western Front of World War I as he and his comrades experience first-hand how the initial euphoria of war turns into desperation and fear as they fight for their lives, and each other, in the trenches. Daniel Brühl, Albrecht Schuch and Sebastian Hülk also star.

The project had gone through many cast-and-director iterations before it finally came to Berger, who previously told Deadline the big reason to make it “was to go back to the German novel and make a German film out of it. Which is something that no English or American filmmaker can theoretically do because they don’t have that heritage.

“I took the British script that existed and imbued it with that sense… while taking things from the novel, taking things from research, and taking things from inside of me. There were also certain poetic elements that we added… But mostly, there’s also an attitude in the novel that I tried to imbue into the rewrite of the script, and also into the filming. The attitude, or the style of the novel, is almost like a journalist describing — in a fairly unemotional, factual way — what’s happening to these kids. And as a reader, because he doesn’t dictate to you what you’re supposed to feel, you bring your own interpretations and you feel all the more, I think. We tried to do that a little bit, but the novel is also very brutal and visceral.”

All Quiet on the Western Front premiered at the Toronto Film Festival and released October 28 on Netflix. In its second week it entered the streamer’s Most Popular Non-English Films List.

Click below to read the screenplay.

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