How Netflix has sold another adaptation of a stirring war story
All Quiet on the Western Front, out this week from Netflix, is at least the third adaptation of the original 1929 novel. As the campaign will note, though, despite the novel coming from a German author as the story focusing on a young German soldier during World War I, this is the first adaptation to actually be filmed in German.
This version stars Felix Kammerer as Paul, the aforementioned young soldier who, like his other new recruits, is filled with the belief war is a romantic, idealistic pursuit. It isn’t long before that belief is shattered as the realities of battle become clear and Paul and the others find it’s nearly impossible simply to stay alive. Daniel Brühl also stars as German finance minister Matthias Erzberger, a leading figure in the country’s war trajectory.
Let’s recap the marketing campaign Netflix has run for what it’s hoping could be an awards contender when that season comes around.
announcements and casting
The movie was announced with director Edward Berger and most of the primary cast already on board. Netflix was reported to be on the verge of acquiring the film in December, 2020, ultimately successful in that purchase.
the marketing campaign
Netflix offered a first look at the movie in July along with comments from director Berger about offering a German perspective to the story and more.
The horrors of warfare – particularly the trench warfare of WWI – are fully on display in the teaser trailer (5.2m YouTube views) released in September. We watch as Paul goes from a green soldier full of enthusiasm to go be a hero for his country to a terrified veteran frequently caked in mud, dirt, blood and other materials as he tries to stay alive amidst the constant cannon fire, doomed infantry advances and other obstacles.
Paul is turning to look toward the camera on the poster that came out at the same time. He’s in the middle of a throng of other soldiers, all marching toward some kind of inferno as ash falls down on them to make sure the audience understands just how hellish their situation really is.
Director Edward Berger was interviewed as the film was screening at the Toronto Film Festival about why a new adaptation was needed and how important it was to finally have a filmed version in German.
Germany announced in mid-October this movie would be its official selection for Best International Picture at the upcoming Academy Awards.
Another trailer (7m YouTube views) was released just a week or so ago. The same basic message is conveyed, but this time the scenes more regularly cut between Paul’s traumatic experiences on the front lines of battle and Erzberger’s efforts to broker a ceasefire between the warring nations.
And…that appears to be the entirety of the marketing, which is a little surprising given the source material’s prestige and the fact this is clearly a major release for Netflix, especially when it comes time for awards consideration.
The latter point may actually explain why this seems a bit lackluster. While the marketing itself is very effective, the paucity of publicity and other efforts may be strategic as Netflix keeps that in its pocket until the months and weeks before Oscar etc nominations are announced. In short, I wouldn’t be surprised to see more press activity after the beginning of the new year.