Netflix’s ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ is an anti-war epic film which is adaptation of the eponymous 1929 novel by Erich Maria Remarque. It follows a young German soldier named Paul Bäumer who enlists in the army out of passion but soon faces the catastrophe of war and death.
Warning: This article contains heavy spoilers
All Quiet on the Western Front opens in 1917, the third year of the First World War. A German boy named Paul Bäumer lies about his age, forges fake signatures on his form and joins the army.
Along with his three friends Albert Kropp, Franz Muller, and Ludwig Behm, Paul follows a huge collection of recruits to the Western Front, as part of the 78th Reserve Infantry Regiment.
He also befriends Stanislaus “Kat” Katczinsky and Tjaden Stackfleet on the frontline. The offensive against the French is at its peak, and these young boys get their first taste of war soon after as heavy artillery fire rains down their trenches.
Unfortunately, Ludwig meets his end here. Paul is tasked with collecting dog tags from the bodies of his fallen comrades and cries uncontrollably when he sees his deceased friend.
18 months later, Paul’s regiment moves to Champagne, France, which is a comparatively peaceful location amid the ongoing horrors of the war. We see the young soldier help Kat steal a goose from a French farmer’s home as the two return to their base and enjoy a delicious meal.
The soldiers have a false sense of comfort here with fresh sheets, constant female interactions and no one shooting at them. However, death is never far away. Paul, Kat, Kropps and Tjaden go searching for 60 recruits who’ve been missing and find them dead inside an abandoned factory.
They realise that the place was attacked with toxic gas, and the newbies took off their masks too soon. Meanwhile, the battle still rages on, and the German authorities, noticing the rising death toll, agree to make peace.
All Quiet on the Western Front ending explained in detail:
Why do the Germans attack?
The General of the German forces on the Western Front sends a delegation to negotiate an armistice with the French, led by Matthias Erzberger. However, he doesn’t want peace.
In a conversation with Major Von Brixdorf, the General states that social democrats would bring doom to their country and sell it off, therefore, he intends to keep fighting. He orders a full-fledged assault on the French.
Paul and his comrades are sent to the front lines once again and a huge battle takes place. The Germans gain the upper hand initially by moving up the battlefield and capturing a French trench.
However, as the enemy’s flame throwers, tanks and fighter planes enter the mix, the Germans are forced to retreat. Franz and Albert are killed, and Paul finds himself stuck in a crater with a French soldier.
He overpowers and stabs him countless times before stuffing his mouth with dirt to keep him quiet. This is when the cruel nature of war makes itself known to Paul, who is horrified at his actions and tries to save the French man.
Unfortunately, he is unable to help. He then finds a picture of the deceased soldier’s family in his pocket and breaks down, realising that he didn’t have a valid reason to continue killing people he didn’t even know.
Is the armistice signed?
Paul makes his way back to base as night falls and news about a potential end to the war starts spreading. The young soldier is delighted to see Kat and Tjaden alive. However, the latter is hit in the leg and is afraid of living as a cripple.
Paul and Kat bring him food, but Tjaden stabs himself in the neck with a fork, ending his misery. The next day, Kat is sure that the peace treaty has been signed as there is silence all around.
The duo heads to the same farmer’s house and steals some eggs. The farmer’s son locks Paul inside the barn, but he manages to escape. He shares raw eggs with Kat before the latter goes to pee in the woods.
Unfortunately, the farmer’s son follows Kat and shoots fatally shoots him. Kat’s intuition was right as Matthias Erzberger, and his delegation met the French military superiors, who present them with a series of non-negotiable terms.
After consulting headquarters, Matthias signs the peace treaty on November 11th, 1918. The decision is made that the cease-fire will begin at 11 a.m. Paul, having lost all his friends prepares to head back home.
Does Paul make it back alive?
The General is livid at the decision of peace and decides to make one final assault on the French at Latierre as it is still not 11 a.m. The German soldiers are displeased with the decision, but when the ones protesting are shot, the others prepare for battle one last time.
The germans infiltrate the enemy’s
tenches and Paul gets into a fight with a young French soldier. The two tumble down the stairs into a bunker but don’t attack each other.
As a battered Paul stares at his enemy, he notices the reluctance to fight within him as well. Unfortunately, another soldier stabs Paul from behind, and the young soldier crumbles to his death.
It is at that very moment that the clock hits 11, and the cease-fire is imposed. Another young German soldier collects dog tags after the conflict ends and comes across Paul’s lifeless body as the screen cuts to black.
On-screen text reveals that the front line on the Western Front had barely moved in four years of the war. Here, 3 million people died while trying to capture a few hundred meters of ground.
Furthermore, almost 17 million lives were lost during the First World War in total.