Posts Tagged ‘Michael Wittenborn’

The Iron Youth of Germany

All Quiet on the Western Front

Director: Edward Berger

Cast: Felix Kammerer, Albrecht Schuch, Daniel Bruhl, Devid Striesow, Edin Hasanovic, Michael Witterborn, Sebastian Hulk, Anton von Lucke, Aaron Hilmer

Running time: 2 hours and 28 minutes

Film Rating: 8 out of 10

This film is only available on Netflix

Every year on the 11th November at 11h00, England and some European countries mark Armistice Day which is when World War 1 ended but the significance of such an hour on such a day is clearly and brutally illustrated in director Edward Berger’s brilliant German anti-war film All Quiet on the Western Front, a 2022 remake of the 1930 film which won a Best Picture Oscar then.

This film is based on the famous German novel of the same name written by German soldier and World War I survivor Erich Maria Remarque published in 1929. The 2022 version has been nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film.

If viewers love a really brilliant war film, then All Quiet on the Western Front is highly recommended viewing, an epic film masterfully directed by Edward Berger and featuring an entirely German and Austrian cast including Felix Kammerer as the main character Paul Baumer, a young and idealistic German teenager who like his compatriots at school get pulled into the blind patriotism of German war fever as the German army is battling the French in the incredibly brutal trench warfare on the Western Front, the border between Germany and France. For complete authenticity watch this film in German with English subtitles.

To counterpoint all the violence, horror and utter bloodshed, the narrative also focuses on the diplomatic mission led by Germany to sue for peace with the French, a task given to diplomat Matthias Erzberger wonderfully played by Golden Globe nominee Daniel Bruhl (Rush). The more famous Daniel Bruhl (Inglourious Basterds, 7 Days in Entebbe, Woman in Gold) also served as executive producer of All Quiet on the Western Front and was instrumental on getting this 21st century version of the film made and premiered at the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival in September 2022.

As the hours approach for the ceasefire, a bloodthirsty general is determined to continue fighting the French right up until the last minute before the armistice takes effect, much to the detriment of the 78th Infantry Reserve Regiment in which Paul Baumer is part of along with his fellow soldiers Kat played by Albrecht Schuch, Kropp played by Aaron Hilmer and Tjaden played by Bosnian actor Edin Hasanovic. Collectively they represent the Iron Youth of Germany.

All Quiet on the Western Front, like similar war films including Sam Mendes’s brilliant 1917 and Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan is a gritty, stark and bloody war film about the meaninglessness of trench warfare and the unnecessary deaths of over 3 million people, many of them young men.

Beautifully shot and extremely captivating, All Quiet on The Western Front gets a film rating of 8 out of 10 and is highly recommended viewing. It’s a fascinating anti-war film about the brutalities of close combat.

Desert Fox and the Informant

Curveball

Director: Johannes Naber

Cast: Sebastian Blomberg, Thorsten Merten, Dar Salim, Virginia Kull, Michael Wittenborn, Franziska Brandmeier

German Entry for the European Film Festival 2020

German director Johannes Naber’s brilliant political satire Curveball is an absolute must see and this year’s European Film Festival held virtually in South Africa and scheduled to be released in Germany in November 2020. Curveball premiered in the Berlinale Special section at the 70th Berlin International Film Festival held in February 2020.

Sebastian Blomberg (The Baader-Meinhof Complex, The People vs Fritz Bauer) plays the unassuming but slightly naïve German chemical weapons expert Dr Wolf who unwillingly gets roped into a political conspiracy to prove that Saddam Hussein, the former Iraqi president was harbouring chemical weapons.

Set between 1998 and 2003, Curveball is the terrifyingly true story of an Iragi fugitive Rafid Alwan wonderfully played by Iragi actor Dar Salim who has also appeared in Lee Tamahori’s brilliant film The Devil’s Double opposite British star Dominic Cooper.

Alwan is questioned by Dr Wolf on the existence of anthrax and other chemical weapons and their existence in Baghdad, which he eventually concedes that there could be such weapons driven around Iraq on trucks which is flimsy and unreliable intelligence at best. What makes Dr Wolf rely on this informant even more is that in Curveball they form a formidable friendship with Wolf teaching Alwan how to use a snow sleigh and Alwan proving that he is quite an unreliable source especially after his drunken escapades with whiskey.

Thrown into this bizarre friendship, is Dr Wolf’s feisty and ruthless CIA agent Leslie played by Big Little Lies star Virginia Kull who exploits Dr Wolf’s naiveté to steal the informant from the Germans to assist the Americans to construct a premise for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. No matter that both the German and American espionage service know that the Intel that Alwan has fed them is entirely fabricated.

Director Johannes Naber skilfully guides the audience through the key events of that period from the chemical weapons experts employed by the UN to search for biological weapons in Iraq in 1998 to the election of George W. Bush as U. S. President in November 1999 to the 2001 World Trade Centre attacks in New York City.

Curveball is both surreal, hilarious and utterly unbelievable made more bizarre by the Kafkaesque bureaucracy of the intelligence services of America and Germany.

Thorsten Merten plays Dr Wolf’s ambitious boss Schatz while Michael Wittenborn plays the more pragmatic Retzlaff.

Curveball is fascinating viewing especially as it deals with recent historical events and demonstrates that the truth can be constructed for a political purpose in this case used to invade a foreign country. Curveball gets a film rating of 8 out of 10 and is highly recommended for those that enjoy incisive political satires.

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