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13 March 2023, 11:55
German pianist Volker Bertelmann picked up the musical award for his work on the German-language film, based on a novel of the same name.
Netflix’s epic anti-war film All Quiet on the Western Front scooped the Oscar for Best Original Score last night at the glitzy 95th Academy Awards in Hollywood.
The film’s composer, Volker Bertelmann, beat out legendary competitors including The Fabelmans composer John Williams, who has had 53 Oscar nominations to date, and five wins.
Having already won Best Original Score at the BAFTAs earlier this award season, Bertelmann’s score has undeniably struck a chord with industry critics, and becomes one of the most experimental soundtracks to win the coveted music prize at the Academy Awards.
Based on Erich Maria Remarque’s 1929 novel, the director of All Quiet reportedly told Bertelmann that he didn’t want a ‘normal score’, which led the German composer perhaps to explore more unsettling soundworlds than his competitors.
The Oscar is Bertelmann’s first win at the Academy Awards, having been nominated once before for the score of Lion (2016), an Australian biographical drama film. Alongside John Williams’ The Fabelmans and Bertelmann’s All Quiet, the other scores nominated in this category were Carter Burwell’s The Banshees of Inisherin, Son Lux’s Everything, Everywhere All At Once, Justin Hurwitz’s Babylon.
Read more: All the Oscar-nominated scores at the 2023 Academy Awards and what they sound like
In his acceptance speech, Bertelmann explained that “by working on a film like [this], you are always touched”, due to harrowing nature of the story line.
He continued: “Sometimes you have to make the screen very small because there are so many explosions happening.”
After his win, Bertelmann was asked in the press room what his great-grandmother would think of his win, as he had used her harmonium – an old keyboard instrument similar to an organ, for his soundtrack.
“I think she would have been amazed if she could see what her instrument was doing,” Bertelmann chuckled.
“I miked up the instrument with eight microphones, and normally when I record something like this I delete all the extra noise they pick up. But with this, I recorded the breathing of the instrument, and I distorted it. Then played it through a rock guitar amplifier.”
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Bertelmann is the second German composer in a row to pick up the top music prize at the Academy Awards, as last year the Oscar went to Hans Zimmer for Dune.
As well as winning the award for Best Original Score, All Quiet also won three other awards last night for best international feature film, production design, and cinematography.
Asked in the press room why Bertelmann thought the film had achieved such success despite being an international subtitled film with a harrowing plot line, the German composer simply replied smiling, “because it’s a great film”.