HomeStreaming2023 Academy Awards: All Quiet on the Western Front – Netflix Crafts Contender
2023 Academy Awards: All Quiet on the Western Front – Netflix Crafts Contender
January 20, 2023
Edward Berger’s acclaimed anti-war epic dominated both Oscar shortlists and BAFTA nominations.
It’s been a big week for Netflix’s anti-war epic “All Quiet on the Western Front.” Edward Berger’s adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque’s world-renowned bestseller rolled into the last days of the Oscar nominations voting with surprising craftsmanship, reaching four shortlists (make-up and hair, score, sound and VFX) as well as the best international film category in Germany. submission. On Thursday, “All Quiet” swept the BAFTA nominations, tying the 14 nominations set by “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” in 2001 for a non-English language film.
Beyond the shortlists, cinematographer James Friend is also an Oscar contender, despite being overlooked as an ASC nominee. It received a BAFTA nomination in recognition of its heroic work in capturing the sheer scale of the relentless artillery barrage and massive carnage on the battlefield with large-format cameras.
“Quiet on the Western Front” imagines Remarque’s novel as an intense POV film, with long takes as we follow Paul (Felix Kammerer) from winter to spring in the agonizing final days of World War I. The visual and audio craft are essential to contribute to the visceral immediacy of death and destruction that Paul experiences around him – much like an immersive horror film.
But will the film come away with one or more Oscar nominations? MUAHS and sound are most likely, but the presentation of “All Quiet” was praised at last Saturday’s VFX “bake”, and composer Volker Bertelmann has already been nominated by his peers for “Lion”.
“Quiet on the Western Front”
Makeup and hairstyle
Makeup and hair designer Heike Merker delved into the fine details of applying mud and blood to Paul and his fellow soldiers on the rain-soaked battlefield. It helped them pass their way to become muddy, tired, demoralized soldiers. This included a selection of wigs and lots of facial hair, as well as tracking the progression of wartime make-up and hair (especially as the scenes were shot out of sequence).
Kammerer was painted with glossy gels and greasepaint around his eyes and face (especially after the horrific mustard gas attacks), and his lips were dry, making him look frozen. This was to illustrate how quickly young Paul grew into a soldier. Crucially, the mud and dirt had many iterations in terms of textures, colors and viscosity to build and map the trajectory of the character’s makeup. The makeup and hair had to represent both Paul’s physical and mental state. She had to look thinner and more tired, and her teeth had to be darker (with braces).
Berger’s best composer, Bertelmann, has provided almost atonal music that reflects Paul’s emotional state as well as the horror-movie atmosphere of war itself, with heavy, staccato drumbeats and ominous spare chords. Interestingly, an iconic bass guitar became the leitmotif of the film, and the composer built the entire score around it. While the drums evoke a military sound and history, Bertelmann carefully avoided marching band percussion; therefore, the snare drums were bullet-like: both unsettling and persistent.
Finally, Bertelmann found a personal solution to the giant chords: he renovated his great-grandmother’s harmonium. This keyboard instrument vibrates metal reeds, and when played, the composer used the instrument’s unique mechanics as part of the score, playing tricks with microphones to accentuate the sound.
The mixing team of sound supervisor/sound designer Frank Kruse, associate sound designer Markus Stemler, and re-recording mixer Lars Ginzel have created an immersive and haunting soundscape. They sourced everything from the period that they could, including a bellicose and loud wardrobe – particularly metal helmets and spiked boots – that provided the team with plenty of sound. However, not many other recorded sounds survived from WWI, so the soundscape was a combination of production sound and created sounds.
The research also revealed that soldiers had a vocal relationship with the war. They often couldn’t see what hit them, but they could hear it, and it gave the various agents of death their nicknames. For example, the machine gun was a sewing machine. This was used to great effect in the scene where the whir of the sewing machine turns into gunfire.
Silence was also important, and variations in human breath or the slightest gasp were just as effective as the impact of bombs. The voice ultimately reflects Paul’s arc, from enthusiastic young warrior to demoralized zombie.
Visual effects production supervisor Frank Petzold took a naturalistic approach, led by Friend’s principal photography, with the goal of relying on as many photographic elements as possible in the composition. All locations and props were scanned and modeled in 3D to support the placement of key photography elements with CG shadows and reflections. CG simulations were reserved for augmentation.
Meanwhile, the explosions were handled by the SFX team and were shot on location at the former airport with the Red camera, then transitioned seamlessly into the background during the battle scenes. In fact, the smoke became a kind of character, and it was difficult to distinguish what was practical and what was digital. Interestingly, the yellow smoke of mustard gas has remained a bit of a mystery.
The tanks were also characters. The appearance of the first war machines was treated with 3D animation, as they wanted them to appear as gigantic creatures. But since some close-up tanks were shot separately with SFX support from the Red camera, 3D animation was used to control the timing of the fleet of tanks when they break through the fog.