Netflix’s 2022 release of All Quiet on the Western Front brought the classic 1929 novel to life in a way that audiences haven’t seen before. The film’s grit and faithfulness to the book’s anti-war message earned it high praise from critics. All Quiet on the Western Front received nine nominations at the 95th Academy Awards and won four awards for Best International Feature, Best Cinematography, Best Original Score and Best Production Design.
Here are five of the reasons we think All Quiet on the Western Front did so well at the Oscars.
1. Raw depiction of war
Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman wrote, “War is Hell” and All Quiet on the Western Front didn’t pull any punches in depicting the trenches of WWI in this way; bodies are mangled, men are shaken to their cores and life is snatched in the blink of an eye. Like the book it is based on, the film follows the idealistic young man named Paul Bäumer who signs up for the German Army and quickly realizes that the promises of glory and grandeur on the battlefield are hollow. Instead, Paul loses friends and his innocence as he struggles to simply survive.
2. Powerful music
Music can make or break a film. Luckily, All Quiet on the Western Front features a powerful score composed by Volker Bertelmann. The film’s music helps to build tension and convey emotions like fear and desperation that immerses the audience in the hellscape that Paul finds himself in. Balancing these dark moments, Bertelmann’s score also features light music for the film’s brief bright moments. In a Netflix behind-the-scenes video, Bertelmann revealed that his favorite track is “Remains.” “It has the main theme but also a kind of waiting attitude,” he explained. “It is a very nice piece.” Bertelmann’s hard work was recognized with both a British Academy Film Award and Oscar for Best Original Score.
3. Attention to detail
Part of making a successful period piece is ensuring that everything the audience sees looks right. This includes sets, props and costumes. While All Quiet on the Western Front was not nominated for Best Costume Design, the uniforms and other clothing worn in the film faithfully replicate the real attire from over 100 years ago. The film did win the Oscar for Best Production Design, recognizing the work of Production Designer Christian M. Goldbeck and Set Decorator Ernestine Hipper. From the trenches to churches, All Quiet on the Western Front convincingly transported audiences back to Western Europe at the height of the Great War.
The camera is how the audience views a movie. Whereas films in previous decades utilized shaky cam to immerse audiences in the action, All Quiet on the Western Front makes great use of uncut scenes, similar to 1917. Following Paul through the trenches and across no man’s land, viewers are exposed to the harsh realities that soldiers faced during WWI. Cinematographer James Friend’s work on the film earned both an Oscar and BAFTA for Best Cinematography.
Like classic WWII films, All Quiet on the Western Front featured its German characters speaking their native language, instead of speaking English with a German accent. Although Felix Krammerer (Paul Bäumer) is actually Austrian, the use of the German language helps to further immerse the audience with the German characters. While it does require non-German speakers to read subtitles, it is a worthwhile tradeoff to the view in the film in its original language. An English dub is available, but it’s just not the same.