To Remake or Not to Remake: e.g. All Quiet on the Western Front, Psycho, Dangerous Liaisons

We have been flooded by a recent wave of remakes (Fame, Predators, …) some of which seem redundant to say the least. I do not think it does make any sense to remake a movie that is fairly recent and to re-do it just the way it was, only exchanging the actors to attract a younger crowd of spectators.

However, some movies  like theater plays (e.g. Hamlet, hence the title of this post) make interesting material for reinterpretation.

I remember that when I heard Hitchcock´s Psycho had been remade by Gus Van Sant I thought it was pointless but when I saw it  I found that it had its charm. Adding color and playing with this gave it a totally new feel. If you want to get a bit of an impression watch this YouTube movie someone did to compare both versions.

All Quiet on the Western Front is one of those movies that can do with a remake. I know it is a classic and one of the most important war movies of all times and many a reader will think it hateful to encourage such a thing. Still I believe it would benefit from it. (I know that it has already been done for TV).  All Quiet on the Western Front is really old. We are talking 1930. The acting has still the feel of  the silent movie era that only just ended in 1927. The acting is over dramatic. A lot of  the facial expressions are exaggerated (not as bad as in the real silent movies more like on the stage).  The whole pictorial language of the acting, so to speak, is hard for us to understand. To enjoy a movie like this nowadays you have to know a lot about film history and be interested in it.

What works very well in the original All Quiet on the Western Front is the depiction of the atrocities of war. Whenever the focus is not on the actors it is fabulous. Hands that are gripping barbed wire but are no longer attached to a body… Those very nuanced shots in black and white accentuate the horror and give a more realistic impression. Black blood looks somehow more like the real blood than overly red blood does.

All this will be a challenge for the film director of the upcoming 2012 version.

Furthermore let´s not forget that the movie is also already a reinterpretation since it is based on the novel by Erich Maria Remarque.  And like with plays where no one takes offense when another director takes it up again, one could claim that this is not really a remake of the movie but a reinterpretation of the book. (I can think of another literary phenomenon that has been turned into a movie at least three times and all of the versions I have seen are extremely interesting and well done. I´m thinking of Les liaisons dangereuses aka Dangerous liaisons the novel by Choderlos de Laclos. First there was the French movie by Vadim (1959), then the Stephen Frear´s remake (1988) with Michelle Pfeiffer, Glenn Close and John Malkovich and last but not least Cruel Intentions (1999) with Ryan Phillippe, Reese Witherspoon and Sarah Michelle Gellar.)

I have uttered my reservations as to the cast of the new All Quiet on the Western Front (see my post on My Boy Jack and Daniel Radcliffe) but apart from that I´m curious to see if they will do the book (and not so much the film) justice.

Remarques´s book is one of the best anti-war books of all times. It is so good that when I had finished  it and read that it had been translated into 50 languages and sold over 20 million times I could not believe that anyone anywhere in this world could have ever wanted to start a war again.

Unfortunately literature is not as powerful as that.