Edward Berger (‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ director) on depicting Germany’s ‘shame, guilt and horror’ in WWI saga [Exclusive Video Interview]

“I don’t aspire to speak for Germany,” says director Edward Berger, whose Netflix movie “All Quiet on the Western Front” has been selected as the country’s official entry for Best International Feature at the 95th Academy Awards. “It happens to be chosen by the country and, of course, that’s always a wonderful thing because more people get to see it. It travels more around the world, there’s bigger interest and so forth. The main thing for me was to tell this German story. It’s the most successful German book ever written and published.”

We talked with Berger as part of Gold Derby’s special “Meet the Experts” Q&A event with 2022/2023 awards contenders. Watch our exclusive video interview above.

“All Quiet on the Western Front” tells the story of a young German solider (played by Felix Kammerer) and his terrifying experience and distress during World War I.

SEE ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ cinematographer James Friend: It was ‘more physically demanding than it looks’ [Exclusive Video Interview]

When asked about Lewis Milestone‘s 1930 classic American film of the same name, Berger admits, “I ignored it. Ascribe that to idiocy, maybe. We just went for it. While I was re-writing it and storyboarding it, I sometimes thought, ‘Why the hell did I do this?’ What big shoes to fill. For me the biggest motivation was that usually those types of stories have been told, but in America or England. For a long time I thought only financing was the main reason. You have American stars and English stars, and the language and there’s a bigger reach. You need quite a bit of money to make a movie like this. Then I realized, it’s not only the financing, it’s also the stories you are able to tell. Americans were roped into the war, twice, and liberated Europe from fascism. There’s a totally different legacy that stays with you. And the kids, the generations to follow and the filmmakers to follow.”

“There’s a story you can tell about heroism, a sense of pride in your country and honor,” he continues. “There’s nothing like that in Germany. There’s only shame, guilt and horror. A sense of responsibility towards history. I thought that just gives a very different perspective and a very different feeling towards the movie. All of the decisions that we take as filmmakers are informed by how we grow up and what we feel. Essentially, hopefully, in the end, a very different film comes out of it and I thought that might be interesting to share with other countries.”

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