“It was a crazy moment. I got the message when I was sitting at a park with friends and we were having a picnic,” recalls actor Felix Kammerer about hearing the news he had landed his first film role in “All Quiet on the Western Front.” “I got the call from the director and producer and they told me they were going to see me in Prague. Then I was celebrating, but it takes you about four seconds, and then you realize, ‘Oh God! Now I have to really do that!'” Watch our exclusive interview with Kammerer and his co-star, BAFTA nominee Daniel Bruhl above.
The Netflix movie has been selected as Germany’s official entry for Best International Feature at the 95th Academy Awards. The epic war drama is based on the novel by Erich Maria Remarque and directed by Edward Berger. It tells the story of a young German solider (played by Kammerer) and his terrifying experience and distress during World War I.
Bruhl plays Matthias Erzberger, a real-life German writer and politician who spoke out against the war and urged leaders to end it. The character was not part of the novel or the 1930 American film version. “That was something I found interesting, intriguing and bold,” says Bruhl. “If you touch holy material, such as this famous book, which had already been adapted cinematically in a masterful way — to do something new with it. With this storyline you add some very interesting historical and political context. Dramatically speaking, film-wise, it was interesting to go back and forth in that last third of the film, going from the trenches to the train.”
The two actors reveal differing views in how they prepared for their roles. “I watched the film version from 1930 and the one from 1979,” Kammerer explains. “I know a lot of friends who don’t want to do that. They want to dilate their performance [without it], but I really like it. I’m of the opinion that it really just improves what you’re doing.”
“I’m one of those who doesn’t want to get intimidated too much,” says Bruhl. “I had seen both films, but back in the day. I didn’t want to rewatch it for that purpose. I knew that my character was not in the previous versions, but still, it stands there so solidly. Especially the milestone film. It’s just a masterpiece. I find it hard to watch it just before you start doing a new adaptation. It was so challenging to touch that book, that is the most read book in the history of German literature. And then having that cinematic masterpiece was quite intimidating.”
For Kammerer, the most challenging aspect of his role was the physical part. “In your mind you can go to extreme lengths and you can stretch your borders, but your muscles have a finishing line. They have an end,” he explains. “If you ran for 12 hours through mud with 90 pounds of equipment on you, and it’s four degrees celsius cold, there’s some point where your muscles just close down. As hard as you want to walk, you can’t. That was really a challenge to go further and further and do another take.”
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