Differences Between the Book and Movie

Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for All Quiet on the Western Front.All Quiet on the Western Frontthe German anti-war literary masterpiece by Erich Maria Remarque, has received a new adaptation, which is now playing in select theaters and is coming to Netflix on October 28th. Narrated by Paul Bäumer, an ambitious young man who fights in the German army on the French front in World War I, All Quiet on the Western Front is a decidedly unromantic, brutally accurate, and unapologetically discomfiting take on the woeful meaninglessness of war. Remarque epitomizes the devastating effects of war on the soldiers fighting on the front who are subject to constant physical dangers and life-threatening attacks.

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Paul is desensitized to the point that, when he goes home, he is unable to communicate his feelings to his family, and relinquishes all attempts at rejuvenating his humanity. So pragmatic do the soldiers on the front become in the course of their training that when their comrade, Kemmerich, is dying, his friends ‘only concern is who will inherit his boots. Remarque, in portraying the horrors of war, presents a thought-provoking critique of the idea of ​​nationalism, which served as the precipitating cause of World War I. While noble to some extent, nationalism is portrayed to be a hollow ideology, promoted by those in power to exploit the common men and control a country’s population. Paul and his friends enlist themselves primarily because they are spurred into action by nationalist ideas. The horrors of war, however, soon teach them about the inherent hypocrisies of all such notions.

Contrary to common assumptions, All Quiet on the Western Front is not a remake. director and writer Edward Berger and co-writers Lesley Paterson and Ian Stokell didn’t look back at the 1930 classic for inspiration. Instead, they decided to stay as faithful to the original source as possible, telling a version of the story that the previous adaptations chose not to. Still, there are many ways in which the 2022 iteration of the story deviates from the original source. Some major differences between the Book and the 2022 version of the story are listed below


Kantorek Has a Smaller Role

The sanctimonious man who, in the safety of his classroom chambers, delivers nationalist rhetoric full of propaganda about German Pride and Glory, thanks to Berger, does not hold as much significance in the 2022 movie as he does in the book. In the book, it is he who fills the boys with questionable ideas about nationalism and prompts them to fight on the front lines. In the 1930 classic, Kantorek is the driving force behind Paul and his friends’ fateful journey. In the 2022 iteration of the story, Paul’s (Felix Kammerer) backstory is kept to a minimum, where he is shown lying his way into the army by forging his father’s signature. Authority figures are still very much there, motivating young men to risk everything on the front lines to maintain their integrity, despite the unspeakable horrors of war, but it doesn’t start with a classroom. Viewers don’t get to see what it is that drives Paul to enlist in the war as the focus is directed more on the devastating effects of war on young people.

RELATED: ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ Review: German Anti-War Classic Gets Stunning Adaptation

Kat’s Death

Stanislaus Katczinsky, or Kat as everyone calls him, retains the most wholesome influence on Paul. His friendship is the crutch that keeps him going despite the constant mental and physical torture he is subjected to on day-to-day basis. Having gone through indescribable horrors, Paul feels so disconnected from his emotions and the world in general that he is unable to maintain, let alone form, healthy relationships with anyone who has n’t been on the front lines with him. One of the very few people Paul looks up to and finds solace in is Kat. Their connection is made all the more heart-wrenching when Kat dies at the end of the book, and not even in close combat. He sustains a minor injury to the leg – shrapnel – and Paul, forever devoted, carries him to a medic. On the way, however, Kat sustains a fatal injury – a shrapnel splinter in his brain and dies right then and there. In the movie, the circumstances of Kat’s death are slightly different, although they carry the same devastating impact. In the movie, Kat sustains a deadly gunshot wound from a local farmer’s child, and expires on the spot, pulling the last marble from beneath Paul’s feet.

Paul’s Death

Those who have read the critically acclaimed book would already know that Paul, the character at the heart of All Quiet on the Western Front dies at the end of the story. This fine detail drives home the author’s overarching argument: that Paul found more peace in death than he ever could in life. In the 2022 version of the tale, Paul is forced to engage in combat with his comrades for a final showdown. Sustaining a fatal wound, he dies after engaging in intense close combat with the enemy. In the book, Paul’s death is rather more poignant, packed with layers upon layers. He is shot to death while reaching for a butterfly – the most accurate representation of peace and beauty – something Paul has been deprived of, for life.

Paul Doesn’t Get Furlough in the Movie

While Berger’s take on the original source is as authentic as possible, he does at times shift emphasis to focus on the thematic aspects of the book. In contrast, the 1930 classic focuses more on the narrative than the points the author is trying to get at. As such, in the 2022 movie, Paul doesn’t get furlough, and the audience gets to see a different sort of battle – one between those who have it in their power to put an end to the horrors of war and the propaganda at play . Berger also utilizes this deviation from the plot line to bring out the disparity between the soldiers fighting on the front lines and the high-ranking officials who get to enjoy elaborate meals. He also unveils the significance of the likes of Paul in the eyes of high-ranking soldiers – that of mere convenience.

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