In this section of our Colossus Movie Guide for All Quiet on the Western Front, we answer questions you have about the movie. If you’re curious about plot explanations, meanings, themes, lessons, motifs, symbols, or just confused by something, ask and we’ll do our best to answer.
- Paul Bäumer – Felix Kammerer
- Stanislaus “Kat” Katczinsky – Albrecht Schuch
- Albert Kropp – Aaron Hilmer
- Franz Müller – Moritz Klaus
- Ludwig Behm – Adrian Grünewald
- Tjaden Stackfleet – Edin Hasanovic
- General Friedrichs – Devid Striesow
- General Ferdinand Foch – Thibault de Montalembert
- Matthias Erzberger – Daniel Brühl
- Written by – Edward Berger | Ian Stokell | Lesley Paterson
- Directed by: Edward Berger
All Quiet on the Western Front | Questions and Answers
Is the movie similar to the book?
The movie is very different from the book. A lot of the book is a first-person stream of consciousness from Paul. There are scenes, like when he and Kat steal a goose from the farm. But the book is a lot more poetic and free-flowing than the movie. Also, the book first came out in 1928. It had the benefit of being close to the events of the time. But was limited in the consequences of those events. The movie coming out in 2022 means it’s more removed from the events but has 100 years of hindsight and insight to draw upon. For example, the original author, Erich Maria Remarque had no idea World War II would happen so soon. But the movie creators have that information. Which is why they added the armistice scenes and the implication that the terms of surrender would embitter the German population, something that directly led to the rise of Hitler.
The farm boy does not pursue Paul and Kat. Rather, Kat’s just randomly hit by shrapnel. It’s not this tragic, “we were so close to making it through but did something stupid” moment. It’s a very average, mundane happening in the war.
Same with Paul’s own demise. In the novel the last we hear from Paul is that he’s on two weeks of rest because, in his own words, “I have swallowed a bit of gas”. His final thoughts are ruminations on how difficult it will be to return home. How, for some, it will be absolutely impossible to assimilate. “We will be superfluous even to ourselves, we will grow older, a few will adapt themselves, some others will merely submit, and most will be bewildered; the years will pass by and in the end we shall fall into ruin.”
Paul’s final words are bittersweet. Those of a broken spirit that still, despite its pain, struggles on. “Let the months and years come, they can take nothing from me, they can take nothing more. I am so alone, and so without hope that I can confront them without fear. The life that has borne me through these years is still in my hands and my eyes. Whether I have subdued it, I know not. But so long as it is there it will seek its own way out, heedless of the will that is within me.”
The irony of the difference between the book and movie is that since the book is from Paul’s perspective we know him so well. Just that final paragraph is so vulnerable and insightful. Yet the movie keeps Paul at a distance. We don’t know his inner thoughts or feelings. He’s often a mystery. There are a few moments where the emotion comes screaming through. But, for the most part, movie Paul is a far greater mystery than novel Paul.
Also, the entire final battle does not happen in the novel. All of that, including the entire character of General Friedrichs, is only in the movie. Much like with the death of Kat, Paul’s own demise is uneventful. The final page states, “He fell in October 1918, on a day that was so quiet and still on the whole front, that the army report confined itself to the single sentence: All quiet on the Western Front.” No grand charge. No last skirmishes and mortal combat. A matter of fact line. Followed by, “He had fallen forward and lay on the earth as though sleeping. Turning him over one saw that he could not have suffered long; his face had an expression of calm, as though almost glad the end had come.” Yeesh.
So the movie offers a lot more hope than the novel.
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