LOS ANGELES – The war movie that abhors war has won an Oscar for best international film, along with three other statues.
“All Quiet on the Western Front,” starring Felix Kammerer and directed and co-written by Edward Berger, earned nine nominations, including best picture.
It also won for cinematography, production design and original score Sunday night.
“I think it might feel incredible but I don’t quite know yet because I haven’t processed it yet,” Berger said backstage. “I’m a little bit on autopilot.”
Berger was joined onstage by Kammerer as well as others involved in the film.
“This was your first movie and you carried us on your shoulders as it was nothing,” he told the 27-year-old Austrian actor. “Without you, none of us would be here.”
The Netflix film is based on the classic 1929 novel of the same name by Erich Maria Remarque. Set during World War I, it follows the life of a young German soldier who enlists in the army with his friends. But the realities of war shatter his hopes of becoming a hero and he focuses on his own survival.
“We tried to make a film about our past, about our responsibility in Germany and with our history,” Berger said. “Our urge was to talk about our guilt and our shame that we’ve brought and the terror that the two wars have caused in the world. Hopefully, at some point we will stop making the same mistakes in the future.”
The German-language film doesn’t hew exactly to Remarque’s novel. Instead, it deviates into political issues against the backdrop of the war. It premiered last year, when Russia invaded Ukraine in the biggest military conflict in Europe since World War II, lending an unexpected relevancy to the movie.
“It’s absolutely terrible,” cinematography winner James Friend said of the war in Ukraine. “It’s a lesson that we can just sort of learn from really.”
“All Quiet on the Western Front” won seven BAFTA trophies, including best film.
Berger said he was happy, proud and grateful that Hollywood embraced the movie.
“I think we do have a little bit of an inferiority complex as German moviemakers because we feel like a small country with less stars and less visibility as opposed to England and America,” he said. “I hope this gives me and a few others a bit of confidence to say, ‘Let’s just do it, let’s just do our movies.’”
The original American movie starring Lew Ayres debuted in 1930 and won Oscars for best picture and best director.
It was later made into a television movie starring Richard Thomas and Ernest Borgnine, winning an Emmy and a Golden Globe.
“All Quiet on the Western Front” beat out “Argentina, 1985” from Argentina, “Close” from Belgium, “EO” from Poland and “The Quiet Girl” from Ireland.
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