Heike Merker interview: ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ makeup department head
“I had to be on the front line,” declares Heike Merker, makeup and hair department head on “All Quiet on the Western Front.” For our recent webchat she adds, “if you want to do this movie, you should be able to apply stuff and to react in the last second because you’re on a battlefield. You film on the battlefield, but you also work on a battlefield. We were covered in mud every day from morning until night. It was a rough and a tough movie to work on, but also fun.” We talked with Merker as part of Gold Derby’s special “Meet the Experts” Q&A event with 2023 Oscar contenders. Watch our exclusive video interview above.
“All Quiet on the Western Front” is the first German language film adaptation of the acclaimed novel of the same name by Erich Maria Remarque. Directed by Emmy-nominated director Edward Berger, who co-wrote the adapted screenplay with Ian Stokell and Lesley Patterson, it follows a battalion of young German soldiers enduring horrifying trauma in the front line trenches during World War I. This latest Netflix adaptation is a blistering anti-war statement starring newcomer Felix Kammerer, Albrecht Schuch and Daniel Brühl, boasting impressive visuals, sound design, a pulsating score by Oscar nominated composer Volker Bertelmann and Merker’s impressive makeup. If nominated, it would be the 12th nominee for Best International Feature at the Oscars from the unified Germany. Two German films have won the Oscar: “Nowhere in Africa” (2002) and “The Lives of Others” (2006). Before the Berlin Wall fell, one East German film scored a nomination and eight West German movies were nominated, with one winning: “The Tin Drum” (1979).
“For me it was always, always like a painting,” Merker reveals about how she approached the innovative makeup design on the film, in which soldiers stumble through trenches and across desolate hellscapes with mud and clay caked on their terrified faces. “My idea was it’s a two-face, it’s a situation where we confront a French soldier with a German, it’s a human being with another human being. It’s like they’re not enemies anymore. They’re just human beings and they’re fighting for their life, but actually they could also be friends.”