It may well go down as one of Netflix‘s most celebrated movies of all time, as the bleak All Quiet on the Western Front finds itself up for a raft of Oscar nominations. Here, we look at the real-life filming locations of the war epic.
Fought across Europe on two main battle lines, the western front, which ran from the coast of Belgium to Switzerland and the eastern front, which went from the Baltic Sea in the north to the Black Sea in the south, WWI is well-known as one of the bloodiest conflicts in human history. The physical and mental strain of the conflict is explored in Edward Berger’s harrowing anti-war movie, All Quiet on the Western Front, which has become a surprise hit at the 2023 Academy Awards.
Adapted from Erich Maria Remarque’s novel of the same name, as well as the 1930 ‘Best Picture’ winner directed by Lewis Milestone, the German-language film establishes itself in contrast to the glitz of Hollywood war movies from the very start. Providing a taste of war that lingers with nightmarish authenticity, Berger’s film tosses you into the hellish landscape of the western front with terrifying attention to detail.
Keeping loyal to the Nobel Peace Prize-nominated novel, the film tells the story of a teenage boy who enlists in the Imperial German Army despite being underage. Buzzing with excitement, his enthusiasm soon dissipates when he comes face to face with the true horrors of war, witnessing his friends fall victim to a concept that was once a fun, thrilling childhood fantasy as the brutality of one of history’s most violent conflicts kicks in.
Brilliantly capturing the tormented landscape of the war, the filming locations of All Quiet on the Western Front is a key question throughout.
The filming locations of All Quiet on the Western Front:
Milovice, Czech Republic
The biggest question coming out of All Quiet on the Western Front is where on earth Berger filmed the grand battle sequences wherein the earth is made to look like a hellish otherworld. Venturing a little outside the capital city of the Czech Republic, the battle scenes were captured in the villages of the countryside, using locations like Libušín, Vinařice, Benátky nad Jizerou, Lišany and Milovice to shoot several moments involving villages, camps and forests.
A Soviet-era airport in Milovice was used as the main battlefield featured in the movie, with the production team digging hundreds of feet of trenches in the landscape. Speaking to Newsweek about the construction of the landscape, Berger stated, “We started in Prague, in and around Prague, we built the trenches in a big airfield, about an hour outside of Prague…So we dug the trenches there and built a crater and the other craters and mounds and the burnt trees”.
Hořín chateau, Hořín, Czech Republic
Anybody who’s seen the film will know that most of its action takes place in the muddy, blood-stained trenches of the western front, only occasionally going over its banks to occupy small settlements and villages. However, one of the most distinctive locations is the balcony whereupon a German general addresses his troops shortly before the film’s final climax. Located near Mělník, the building is well-known for its striking shape and curved structure, which plays a vital role in perfectly framing the film’s painful final climax.
The Hořín chateau was one of many historical castles used in the film, with Sychrov Castle doubling up as a German command centre at the start of the film. This came location is also used at the midway point of the film when the high-up German diplomat, played by Daniel Brühl, struts through the marvellous interiors of the command centre whilst attempting to convince his superiors to surrender.
Prague, Czech Republic
Whilst the sweeping plains of Milovice and the many grand manor houses used in the movie were great for specific set pieces in the production of the movie, the capital city of Prague was used for multiple moments that might have gone unnoticed. Using Barradov Studio, the largest film studio in the country, Berger used the location to film many of the movie’s smaller moments, such as the train scene where German and French forces meet to organise a truce and several other scenes of micro trench moments.
As well as the use of Barradov Studio, the architecture of Prague is also used as the backdrop for the home of the teenagers at the start of the movie. Speaking to Newsweek, the director explained his thinking behind using the capital of the Czech Republic, stating: “Prague [is] very welcoming, and great crews, but also it is slightly more economical to shoot there. Also, because you will find buildings that aren’t all renovated [there]”.