Felix Kammerer keeps silent on the secret weapon of the Western Front

In his film debut, the Austrian actor brings out the horrors and brutality of war.

Nominated for nine Oscars, including best picture, director Edward Berger's big-screen adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque's 1929 novel "All Quiet on the Western Front" has become the target of the 2023 Oscar race. Unexpected competitor. This German import is the fourth film version of the World War I story, and certainly the most brutal and unflinching. But for all its grandeur and dogged portrayal of the horrors of war on the Franco-German front, it's the performance of newcomer Felix Kammerer that makes the film such a wrenchingly personal experience.

Paul Bäumer, an 18-year-old who aspires to join the military and experiences the unimaginable, horrific, and unreasonable, Kammerer shows audiences what the destruction of the human soul looks like. Surprisingly, Kammerer missed out on the nomination for his stunning performance, but there's no denying that he's the quintessence of this war epic. As Bäumer, Kammerer symbolizes the futility of war and the inescapable hell of becoming a dead soul in a living body.

Felix Kammerer Plays a Character Whose Innocence Quickly Evaporates

Playing the lead role of a morally upright, innocent and frustrated recruit is a huge challenge for even the most seasoned actor, making More notably, All Quiet on the Western Front is Kammerer's feature film debut. Kammerer grew up in the world of performing arts (his parents were opera singers) and trained at the Ernst Busch Academy of Dramatic Arts in Berlin, but he was never seen on camera until donning the Paul Bäumer uniform . Still, his performance was otherworldly. When audiences first see Kammerer's young Paul, he's an innocent fresh-faced, blue-eyed sparkle, as if they're seeing it for the first time, wondering what amazing sight lies ahead of them.

When he arrives in the recruiting hall with his friends, his patriotism and joy in fighting for his country is palpable. "We are lucky to be alive in a great time," the commander told the auditorium filled with eager young fighters. "Your deeds will be the water that nourishes a strong and noble line. What the Kaiser needs are soldiers, not children." The tragic irony of this scene is that the people in the room are indeed children, who have no idea what it means to be a soldier. What it means to fight without knowing Willing to bask in the publicity pouring down on them. When Paul got his first rifle on the way to the front, he held it proudly, as if with one touch he would transform from a boy to a man.

Paul Is a Soldier Who Has Lost His Purpose

However, a few minutes later, Paul's innocence turns to jarring reality as bombs start to explode and bullets start to be fired. In those few minutes, Kammerer was able to convey Paul's true unpreparedness for the brutality of war. The wonder that once filled those blue eyes was now terror. In an interview about the making of the film, director Berg described Camerer's approach to the evolution of Paul's character. "Felix's Excel spreadsheet contains three numbers; one is the pulse, the second is the desire to kill, and the last one is the urge to live. He assigns numbers to the three numbers so he knows the three numbers in each scene. The strength of the elements is demanded." This approach worked because once the fighting started, Paul could never again be seen as a dreamer, fighting passionately for the German cause. For a split second, viewers can almost see Paul's soul die with his friend beside him. Paul walks through the trenches, removes the identification pins from the uniforms of his fallen comrades, puts each piece of metal into a cloth bag, and takes away another part of his own humanity. The next time the audience sees Paul, he is sitting alone on the bed of the armored vehicle, his face is pale, his eyes are no longer blue and lively, but gray and heavy, and there is no trace of emotion on his face. He lost friends, core and purpose.

Felix Kammerer's Performance Shows a Soul That Dies Before Its Body

As Paul continues to dive into the abyss of war, Camerer brilliantly gives the audience a fleeting glimpse of a soul that is not yet dead, still struggling to wake up. When Paul enters an abandoned building and sees the bodies of dozens of dead soldiers strewn about the room, he fights back his shock and grief. As his friends are killed one by one around him, he wrestles with his own consciousness to overcome his despair and move on to the next fight. And when his brigade was awakened in the middle of the night and sent to serve, the soldiers around him would ask, "Where? To where?" But that didn't matter to Paul anymore. he only knows he is Going into battle, facing every disastrous conflict, he knows his greatest battle will be as he tries to protect what's left in his heart. In what may be the most brutal and emotional scene in the film, Paul faces a one-on-one confrontation with a French soldier.

Although Paul mortally wounded the soldiers, his death was slow and painful. Paul nearly lost his mind as the soldiers wept in agony. Paul tried desperately to silence the man's cries, gagging the soldier's mouth with mud, but to no avail. Paul eventually put his hands over his ears and screamed, "Shut up! That's enough!" before finally helping the man ease the pain of his final moments. "I'm so sorry," Paul sobbed, undoing the soldier's vest and beginning to tend to his wound. It is in this scene that Kammerer's harrowing performance successfully shifts the film's focus from the abstract concept of war to its most personal and horrific effects. It is also at this moment that the audience sees Paul's soul finally leave, dying like the French soldier's body. Kammerer's face conveyed that pivotal moment. no more life behind the eyes Once a lively and confident young man, he is ready to be a hero. Kammerer admits that making all of this into a movie was difficult. "It was one of the most challenging scenes. I was nervous before we started."

Paul, lifeless in every way except his body, returns to his camp and receives word that the war is coming to an end . "After years of sacrifice and pain, you can expect your reward," roared the commander. Instead of being happy, Paul stood motionless among the others, an empty shell. There's still a fight to be fought, and while his comrades balk at the prospect, Paul strides forward, distracted, physically shifting as if possessed by some nefarious outside source. For Paul, there is no longer life; there is only existence. His final battle at the film's tragic end demonstrates that no one truly survives the ravages of war, physically or mentally. Watching Paul's performance in the last battle, Kammerer showed that Paul was a victim of war in every sense.

'All Quiet on the Western Front' Is a Deeply Personal Story Within a War Spectacular

Although other film versions of All Quiet on the Western Front explored themes of war's brutality and futility, they tended to focus more on On the spectacle of the conflict itself, the characters are participants in the events but not necessarily central to the overall narrative. Director Berger certainly does not ignore the visual presentation of war and its most horrific and shocking aspects, but he has wisely chosen to put Paul Bäumer's personal story at the heart of it, and his choice of Kammerer to tell this central story is an unusual one. All Quiet on the Western Front is available on Netflix, and Kammerer's haunting performance is unforgettable.

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