Felix Kammerer in “All Quiet on the Western Front” 2022. IMDb photo

Brutal. Bloody. Heartbreaking. Terrifying. Haunting. Macabre.

Take your pick. You win.

Edward Berger’s 2022 version of “All Quiet on the Western Front” explodes all of those in your face, like you stepped on a land mine.

We saw Louis Milestone’s black-and-white 1930 Best Picture winner, taken from Erich Maria Remarque’s 1929 prize-winning novel, for the first time on a small television set in a cold New York apartment.

It was a rainy night date, with cheap wine and a movie, “All Quiet on the Western Front” starring Lew Ayres and Louis Wolheim.

Ayres, (“Calling Dr. Kildare”) who played Paul, was so traumatized by the end of work, that when World War II broke, he became a conscientious objector, a move that almost ended his career.


“To me, war was the greatest sin. I couldn’t bring myself to kill other men,” he said.

Today, “All Quiet on the Western Front” is back, and writer-director Berger’s big screen is in full color, and the very real red blood begins flowing through the vomit and rain water until you will want to lift your feet.

The first scenes set us up with streets full of happy German youth full of patriotic fever, with love for the kaiser, their hearts beating to the rhythm of the drums. We see young, blond boys forging letters from parents that allow them to enlist.

The scenes in the enlistment centers, where they are tested, are like fraternity party hazings full of laughter.

Student Paul Bäumer (Felix Kammerer) is issued his uniform. It’s the right size and color. But a few feet away he turns and returns it.

“Oh sir,” he shyly complains, “This is a mistake, this is someone else’s.”


The clerk reaches down and tears away the label with another soldier’s name, and hands it back, “ It was probably too small.”

We know at once it was worn by a dead man named Heinrich. It has been cleaned up, blood washed away. Bäumer begins his journey wearing a dead man’s garb.

And so at this quiet moment the horror begins, and goes on and on.

Minutes later, Paul and his mates are loaded on a truck and sent to Flanders.

We are the Dead. Short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved: and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

— John McCrae 1918


Readers of the book, and fans of the 1930 film, know the fate of Paul (Felix Kammerer) and his friends, Stanislaus Katczinsky, (Albrecht Schuch), Albert Kropp (Aaron Hilmer); and Ludwig Behm (Adrian Grünewald).

Each of the players, and dozens of other actors involved, give breath-taking performances. All so magnificent, it would be impossible to pick the winner.

The screenplay, written by Berger, Lesley Paterson and Ian Stokell is flawless.

There are no adequate words to describe the cinematography of James Friend. I’ll let you try.

And one must not take the editing by Sven Budelmann lightly. And costume designer Lisy Christl? Hall of Fame.

The battle scenes, spectacularly shot by English cinematographer Friend, who worked with the director, are the best since “Private Ryan.” Each one floating over the battlefield, reminds us of the spectacular wide-screen hospital field of “Gone With the Wind.”


At the film’s end, a dark surprise is presented to the last battalion waiting for a speech from a balcony.

Prepare yourself for that. Watch the soldier’s eyes, their trembling hands, watch the eyes that have been washed by the river Styx.

Prepare yourself.

October 1918. Germany’s imperial government was toppled in a revolution, and the country became a republic. On Nov. 11, 1918, the new government signed the armistice with the Allies, which ended the fighting.

No. It did not. Don’t leave your seats. Death takes no holidays. Take a breath. The most powerful scenes lie ahead.

NINE Nominations. Best Picture, as well as Best Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Original Score, Visual Effects, Sound, Makeup and Hairstyling, and Production Design. This is film that must be seen on the biggest screen in town. Maine film center welcomes it.


Wait for the Oscars.

Note: In the U.S. Holocaust Museum Encyclopedia, an interesting biography of Erich Maria Remarque (his real name was Erich Paul Remark ) can be found.

His sister was arrested by the Nazis in Germany, tried and beheaded. Remarque really was at the battle in Flanders.

“All Quiet” opens Feb. 10 at the Maine Film Center at Waterville.


J.P. Devine of Waterville is a former stage and screen actor.