Any high school student who has ever slogged through Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front has probably hungered for a shiny new film adaptation of the war novel to supplement their dedicated consumption of SparkNotes or CliffsNotes or whatever it is the young people use these days. And now they’re getting one! From the director of Pay It Forward!

Mimi Leder (who has, to be fair, also helmed Deep Impact, The Peacemaker, and a mess of gritty TV) will direct a new adaptation of Remarque’s classic novel about the horrors of World War I. Leder will be working from a script by Ian Stokell and Lesley Paterson. The pair’s first feature, The Negotiation, still appears to be in production for a release sometime this year.

Remarque, a veteran of WWI himself, shaped his novel around the fictional story of German soldier Paul Bäumer. The novel charts Paul from bright-eyed schoolboy to hardened solider, changes that come thanks to the hell of war, which Remarque depicts unflinchingly. It’s bloody and dirty and sad and traumatizing. In short, it’s a big bummer.

The book has already seen one adaptation, Lewis Milestone’s 1930 take on the material. Milestone’s film is a consistently well-rated piece of cinematic history, often ranking on “best of” and top ten lists, as well as being preserved by the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry in 1990. Oh, and no big deal, it also won Best Picture. So let’s definitely remake it!

Leder’s film, however, will approach the material in a different way, saying that “with this version, most of it takes place in the last 24 hours of the war.” It’s certainly an interesting idea and a way to focus story, but All Quiet on the Western Front seems like a wacky pick for such a treatment, as the real strength of the novel is in its depiction of the negative progressions of Paul due to the horrors of war. It’s hard to feel the power of change over time if there’s little actual time to watch. Ten bucks says we’re in for some massive flashback sequences.

The new All Quiet on the Western Front is aiming for a 2012 start date. [Deadline Saxony]


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