When writer-director-producer Edward Berger set out to do a new version of Erich Maria Remarque’s classic antiwar novel All Quiet on the Western Front, he had no idea that this first-ever German-language film version of the World War I story would become so pertinent and timely when Putin invaded Ukraine. The film, after all, premiered at the Berlin Film Festival just before that happened, and certainly wasn’t something top of mind during the development of the movie — remarkably made for under $20 million and distributed globally in theatres and on streaming by Netflix.
As he tells me in our conversation for this week’s edition of my Deadline video series Behind the Lens, it all began with the idea of telling the story from a German POV, not to remake the 1930 Oscar-winning American classic adapted by director Lewis Milestone, who took the Directing and Best Picture awards that year. There are vast differences, while still being faithful to the book, and it has taken hold with audiences. Netflix announced today it has chalked up more than 150 million viewing hours since its October release, and it has climbed to No. 2 globally since its record seven BAFTA wins including for Best Film, Director, Screenplay, as well as Best Film Not in the English Language; and its nine Oscar nominations including Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay and International Feature.
In our conversation, Berger talks about why he felt it was important to tell this stirring story 90 years after it was written, and the amazing relationship it seems to have with the war in Ukraine — many of the images in the film are astoundingly like the ones we are seeing on nightly newscasts.
Berger is currently shooting his next film, Conclave, at the legendary Cinecitta in Rome with an all-star cast, and has found great success and Emmy recognition for such television productions as Patrick Melrose with Benedict Cumberbatch, The Terror with Jared Harris, and many films in his own native German language.
To watch our conversation, click on the video above.
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