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‘All Quiet On The Western Front’: Timely German-Language Version Of WWI Classic Heads To EFM With Edward Berger, Daniel Bruhl & Rocket Science

Deadline — Andreas Wiseman

EXCLUSIVE: There has never been a German-language film version of landmark German novel All Quiet On The Western Front. That is set to change with an intriguing new version of the WWI story which brings together BAFTA-winning director Edward Berger (Patrick Melrose), Euro producers Malte Grunert (A Most Wanted Man) and Daniel Dreifuss (No), and actor-producer Daniel Bruhl (Rush).

Rocket Science are also producing and are launching world sales next week at the EFM on the (anti-)war movie, which comes hot on the heels of Oscar-winning WWI story 1917 and local-language smash Parasite. Berger and the producers will be in Berlin to discuss the project.

One of the best-selling German novels of all time, Erich Maria Remarque’s poignant story follows three youngsters who voluntarily enlist in the German army. Full of excitement and patriotic fervour, the boys enthusiastically march into a war they believe in. But once on the Western Front, they discover the soul-destroying horror of war. Their preconceptions about the enemy and the rights and wrongs of the conflict crumble. On the countdown to Armistice, the novel’s protagonist must carry on fighting until the end, with no purpose other than to satisfy the top brass’s desire to end the war on a German offensive.

The novel was famously adapted by Universal and Lewis Milestone in 1930 and went on to win Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director.

The plan is to shoot the $20M-budgeted film at the end of the year in Belgium and Germany. Goodbye Lenin! and Rush actor Bruhl is attached for the ensemble cast and will be an executive producer. Casting is underway for the main role of Paul Baumer. The leads will likely be newcomers or emerging actors.

The English-language script, which is being translated into German, comes from Lesley Patterson and Ian Stokell who first optioned the book rights almost a decade ago. Rocket Science will be sending the project out to buyers today.

In-demand German filmmaker Berger told us, “People want authenticity. There is no way this film could be made today in a language other than German. It’s actually remarkable to think there has never been a German-language version. It’s a real hole in our film history. Telling a truthful version of the story is so important to us. We’re thinking of it as being in the tradition of movies like Downfall and Das Boot.”

He continued, “All Quiet On The Western Front may be set in 1918, but it speaks directly to our times and the divisive tone in today’s discourse. It is a physical, visceral and very modern film that has never been told from my country’s perspective. We now have the chance to make an anti-war film that will truly touch our audience.”

Veteran German producer Grunert, whose anti-war film Land Of Mine was Oscar-nominated in 2015 and who most recently made post WWII-drama The Aftermath with Keira Knightley, told us, “The world has been changed by the streamers in terms of local-language production. It’s much easier to access a global market. Credibility and acceptance has really risen in the last years thanks to shows like Narcos, Dark and Money Heist.”

He continued, “All Quiet On the Western Front to this day is indeed the definitive novel about war and the utter senselessness of it. War knows no heroes. 100 years after its publication the novel has retained all its impact and power. In the hands of Edward, it will be a very meaningful and contemporary take on the story, a powerful film and an impressive cinematic experience. I am really excited and looking forward to spending all of my energy making this now.”

Six years ago Roger Donaldson was attached to an English-language incarnation of the project, which was being set up out of the U.S.

Berger came to international prominence with 2014 movie Jack which screened in competition at Berlin. He went on to direct hit series Deutschland 83 and Patrick Melrose. Most recently he helmed movie All My Loving, which screened at last year’s Berlinale. The filmmaker also has buzzed-about movie project Rio on his upcoming slate.

Berger is represented by Casarotto Ramsay & Associates, Anonymous Content and ICM.

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