A pitch to an editor. An appeal to Netflix. A few phone calls through some contacts, and a few weeks later I found myself in a black Cadillac SUV with Netflix promoters and Edward Berger, the director of All Quiet on the Western Front. We were heading to a resort for an interview at the Middleburg Film Festival in Virginia.
I spent an hour with Berger, asking him questions about the film, his approach, and what he aimed to accomplish in re-telling a story that had already been made into an iconic film in 1930.
While the 1930 version remains one of my favorite films, Berger has accomplished the remarkable in this new adaptation. In fact, he gets to the core of what both Remarque and Laemmle were still trying to understand in their day. I will have more to say about that interview, but for now, the result of that pitch...an article in TIME.
Interesting fact, if you have seen the film you may recall a siren that occasionally blares out. Berger called it the Led Zeppelin blast. I kept trying to figure out what it was, a synthesized sound? A cello through a distortion pedal? An electric guitar? Berger told me that he wanted a sound that would "punch through the image"--to startle the audience. The composer used a century-old harmonium that he inherited from his grandmother and channeled the sound through a Marshall amp. Brilliant!