Is All Quiet on the Western Front a true story? Real events and classic book that inspired Bafta-winning movie

Bafta-winning German film All Quiet on the Western Front is the third screen adaptation of the classic Erich Remarque First World War novel
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All Quiet on the Western Front is the second remake of the 1930 Best Picture Oscar winner (the first remake starring Richard Thomas and Donald Pleasence was made in 1979) and it has also found award success.

The 2022 film German-language film scooped seven Baftas, including Best Picture, off the back of 14 nominations, and four Oscars including Best International Feature Film. It was nominated for eight Academy Awards including Best Picture and had the film won it would have marked the first time a remake of a Best Picture Winner had gone on to claim the award.

All Quiet stars Austrian actor Felix Kammerer in his film debut, Marvel's Daniel Brühl, and Deutschland: NSU actor Albrecht Schuch. The explores follows the harrowing experiences of young German soldier Paul (Kammerer) in the trenches of the western front during the First World War - one of the deadliest conflicts in history.

Paul, a naive schoolboy is eager to enlist to fight for his country and kill some Tommys, believing that the glorious war will be finished by Christmas of 1914. In the trenches, Paul and his fellow soldiers are rapidly disillusioned by the brutal and bloody war, and the men in his battalion are picked off by bullet, bayonet, bombs, and poisoned gas.

Despite being a German story, previous versions of the film have featured English-speaking actors. The Netflix adaptation of the classic novel is a German-language feature, although viewers have the option to watch it with English dubbing.

Felix Kammerer as Paul in All Quiet on the Western FrontFelix Kammerer as Paul in All Quiet on the Western Front
Felix Kammerer as Paul in All Quiet on the Western Front

Is All Quiet on the Western Front a true story?

All Quiet on the Western Front is not directly based on a true story, but it is heavily inspired by the soldiers’ experience of the First World War. The film follows a young German soldier, Paul, who goes off to war with his friends, eager to fight for his country.

He quickly learns of the brutal reality of war as he sees his friends killed around him, and as he struggles with terrible conditions in the trenches of the Western Front. As soldiers are cut down in their hundreds, commanders blindly order more offensives across No Man’s Land, leading to more death for a few yards of land.

Running parallel to this story, German diplomats attempt to come to peace terms with the French, aware that the longer they delay, the more of their men will die. Therefore, whilst most of the characters in the film are fictitious, the general story of the horror of the First World War is accurate.

Over the course of the First World War, more than 2 million German soldiers are estimated to have died - roughly 1.7 million French soldiers died, and 1 million soldiers from the British Empire also lost their lives.

Additionally, the belief that millions of lives were thrown away by commanders who pressed for futile advances in what was a bloody war of attrition took hold during and after the conflict, though it has since been challenged by war historians.

The film also accurately represents how the armistice came about, with German diplomats forced to accept crushing peace terms in order to stop the war. These included a promise to disarm, limits on the size of the German army, huge loss of territory, and devastating reparations costs, as well as accepting responsibility for the outbreak of war.

Is All Quiet on the Western Front based on a book?

Yes, All Quiet on the Western Front is based on the book by Erich Maria Remarque’s, published in Germany in 1929 in the inter-war period. The German title is Im Westen nichts Neues (In the West Nothing New).

Remarque was a German soldier during the First World War, he began fighting when he was 18 in the trenches on the western front . He was injured by shell shrapnel in the leg, arm and neck and spent the remainder of the war recovering in hospital.

The German remake will explore the horrors of warThe German remake will explore the horrors of war
The German remake will explore the horrors of war

Remarque wrote in the preface to his book: “This book is to be neither an accusation nor a confession, and least of all an adventure, for death is not an adventure to those who stand face to face with it. It will try simply to tell of a generation of men who, even though they may have escaped [its] shells, were destroyed by the war.”

All Quiet on the Western Front has been adapted twice before for the screen - into the 1930 American pre-code film starring Lew Ayres, and the 1979 British colour TV movie starring Richard Thomas.

When the Nazis came to power in Germany, they banned the book and removed copies from libraries on the basis that its strong anti-war message was unpatriotic. Remarque moved to the United States before the outbreak of the Second World War - his German citizenship was revoked in 1938.

The Nazis arrested Remarque’s younger sister in 1943 and executed her by beheading, possibly because they were unable to reach Remarque himself. Remarque dedicated his 1952 novel, Spark of Life, to her.

What awards has All Quiet on the Western Front won?

All Quiet on the Western Front has been nominated for 14 Bafta Awards - more than any other film this year - including Best Film, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay.

It has also been nominated for nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best International Feature Film. If it wins the Oscar for Best Picture it will be the first time in Oscars history that a remake of a Best Picture winner has gone on to win the award. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) won the award for Best Picture at the 3rd Academy Awards.

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