14 October 2022.
ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT **** (vo German)
All quiet on the western front/Im Westen Nichts Neues/A l’ouest, rien de nouveau.
This is the classic based on Erich Maria Remarque’s 1929 novel, ‘Im Westen nichts Neues’, remade anew and as powerful and brilliant as ever. Its first version, an American silent film, came out in 1930 under the title ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ and was awarded two Academy Awards for Best Director (Lewis Milestone) and Best Film. Another version was also made in English in 1979.
This latest is finally in German, as it should be, since it is about young, patriotic German recruits who go wholeheartedly into WWI, only to realise too late the horrors of real warfare.
Directed by German director Edward Berger, it is the ultimate anti-war message, taking one straight into the wet, bloody trenches and the uselessness and utter waste of war.
From the point of view of Paul (Felix Kammerer), an idealistic university student who lies about his age to be recruited, the film starts off with a multitude of characters who slowly become clear individuals to the audience (like the charismatic Kat, played by Albrecht Schuch) as we begin to shake in their boots and care for their wellbeing. Berger covers all the facets of that era – 1917 to 1918, just before Armistice. There are the ruthless generals, the industries of the war machine, the innocent soldiers who are thrown unprepared into pure hell, the camaraderie as the only release in their miserable existence, the uninformed families back home, and finally the men who must seek peace, whatever the cost. The popular German and international actor, Daniel Brühl, plays Matthias Erzberger, the actual diplomat who signed Germany’s capitulation with Marshall Foch. The riveting music is a character unto itself.
This is a grandiose, masterful film that is not for the faint-hearted, similar to other works such as “Gallipoli” and “Saving Private Ryan”. It deserves many awards (it has just been chosen as Germany’s film to the Oscars, and has been nominated in all categories to the European Film Awards) and should be seen on the big screen, for it is an epic work and mirrors well today’s tragic happenings.
Someone should send a copy to Mr. Putin, Zelensky and the Western allies.
(Showing only at The Cinerama Empire)
SIMONE – LE VOYAGE DU SIÈCLE **1/2 (vo French)
Simone Veil, an outstanding French woman ahead of her time, led an exceptional life throughout the 20th century. Born in 1927, she overcame her tragic youth as a Holocaust survivor to graduate with a prestigious law degree, became a judge and entered politics, first in the Ministry of Justice and then as Health Minister in several French governments. Her courageous, controversial passage of abortion rights in 1975 became known as the Veil Law. A strong believer in European unity and integration, she went on to become President of the European Parliament from 1979-82.
Among her multitude of awards and honorary degrees from around the world were the French Legion of Honor, the Spanish Asturias Award and an honorary Dame of the British Empire. She was invited to the Académie Française in 2008 as a rare female member, and after her death at almost 90 in 2017, she was honored with a burial in the Pantheon in 2018.
In this biopic by Olivier Dahan, these incredible accomplishments of hers are overshadowed by the melodramatic emphasis on her family life and heavy use of flashbacks to her persistent traumas due to her time in concentration camps during WWII. She rose past those traumas, though the film does not. But Elsa Zylberstein as Simone Veil manages to show well the extraordinary woman she was.
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Neptune Ravar Ingwersen reviews film extensively for publications in Switzerland. She views 4 to 8 films a week and her aim is to sort the wheat from the chaff for readers.