REVIEW: All Quiet on the Western Front – A BBC Radio Drama (2014)

An Audio Drama produced by the BBC

I had to sit in a waiting room for some car repairs today, so I figured it would be the perfect time to listen to a dramatization of one of the most enduring novels about war of all time. I am, of course, referring to All Quiet on the Western Front, originally by Erich Maria Remarque, which I already read a few months ago in it’s normal unabridged form. This review is specifically for an adaptation of the story, so I was not expecting it to be completely the same and tried to keep that in mind as I was listening. That said, I’m not completely sure that whittling the full story (around 6 hours if read at a brisk pace) to something just over an hour was a good call, as TONS of the plot was lost. So, it is salvageable? Does it stand on its own? Let’s talk about that.

“A full-cast dramatization of one of the greatest war novels of all time. First published as a novel in 1929, All Quiet on the Western Front tells the story of a group of young German soldiers who are enduring, and then coming to terms with, the realities of the First World War. At the age of 19, following the outbreak of the First World War, Paul Bäumer enlists in the German Army. He is deployed to the Western Front, where the experience of life and death in the trenches has an enormous effect on him. He begins to feel disconnected from his past life: his family, his love of poetry, and his feelings. As the war progresses, Paul becomes increasingly lost in battle. Haunting yet comic, lyrical yet desperate, the novel became a best seller on its original publication. It inspired an Oscar-winning film of the same name, and has been adapted for television and stage. This powerful radio dramatisation stars Robert Lonsdale as Paul Bäumer, with a supporting cast including Simon Trinder, Stephen Critchlow, Carolyn Pickles, and Malcolm Tierney.”

German WWI soldiers, perhaps the same age as the characters in this book.

Honestly, I did not feel like this was a great adaptation for a few reasons. First and foremost, for an adaptation of a German book about German soldiers, there sure was a lot of UK slang and colloquialisms being flung around. There is a section towards the beginning where every actor is basically saying “Bloody hell this” and “bloody hell that” to where I was actually surprised that the script went into that direction. If nobody told me otherwise, I would have been sure that it was a bunch of Americans pretending to have British accents and speaking in clichés and stereotypes. I’m of the opinion that you can adapt something like that into English and avoid stuff like that considering the book itself isn’t full of translated German slang that needed to adapted in either translation.

I also felt that the plot was severely lacking any real depth and basically had no real message or “soul” to it other than “war sucks and people die”, which isn’t really the main theme of the books. Without the idea that these characters have lost their childhoods to a war that literally nobody understands the point of, basically makes this a pretty pointless adaptation in my honest opinion. At best you could see this as a “best scenes of the book” compilation in many ways, and even then the lack of context would make it unlikely for any listener to want to read more in the future.

BBC is generally good with these adaptations, but I feel like this was a HUGE missed opportunity. With a lacking script and a skewed POV on what the message was, I feel like this barely gets the point of the book across which is somewhat surprising considering how good BBC usually is with this sort of thing. I would pass on this and get the audiobook of this on Audible, I listened to a bit of it when I was on a commute when I was reading the actual book, and it was far superior in almost every way.

If you would like a copy of this, please click HERE

For the far better audio adaptation, click HERE

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