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Seven drafted German schoolboys die defending a worthless bridge against Allied tanks.
The astonishing The Bridge, by Bernhard Wicki (The Longest Day), was the first major antiwar film to come out of Germany after World War II, as well as the nation’s first postwar film to be widely shown internationally, even securing an Oscar nomination. Set near the end of the war, it follows a group of teenage boys in a small town as they contend with everyday matters like school, girls, and parents, before enlisting as soldiers and being forced to defend their home turf in a confused, terrifying battle. This expressively shot, emotionally bruising drama dared to humanize young German soldiers at a historically tender moment, and proved influential for the coming generation of New German Cinema auteurs.
- Aspect Ratio : 1.33:1
- MPAA rating : s_medNotRated NR (Not Rated)
- Product Dimensions : 7.75 x 5.5 x 0.75 inches; 3.2 Ounces
- Item model number : 2500
- Director : Bernhard Wicki
- Media Format : Multiple Formats, Black & White, Full Screen, NTSC, Subtitled
- Run time : 1 hour and 43 minutes
- Release date : June 23, 2015
- Actors : Folker Bohnet, Fritz Wepper, Michael Hinz
- Subtitles: : English
- Studio : Criterion Collection (Direct)
- ASIN : B00UUOVQ5Y
- Number of discs : 1
- Best Sellers Rank: #100,407 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
- Customer Reviews:
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This film is based on a novel of the same name ( The Bridge ), which was derived from author Gregor Dorfmeister's (penname Manfred Gregor) actual experiences during the war. Dorfmeister begins the story when the boys are already in the army, and employs a dozen flashbacks to provide personal information about each of the boys and some of the army officers. Wrestling with this unwieldy framework, Dorfmeister wrote and re-wrote the novel seven times before submitting it to the publisher. Understandably, director Bernhard Wicki considered this format inappropriate for the movie, and chose instead to tell the story more or less chronologically. This required him to omit many details, and to foreshorten time, placing in several days events that actually took place over several years. For example, in the film, the boys were in the army for only a single day; in the novel, they had 14 days’ military training.
Each of the seven boys has a distinctive personality—some are more mature than others. The movie gives us a good understanding of some of the boys—Jürgen’s desire to be an army officer, Walter’s resentment of his Nazi father—but it fails to capture the character of Hans Scholten (who is Ernst Scholten in the novel). This is unfortunate, because Scholten, as the most mature, the most outspoken, and perhaps the most sensitive of the group, may be the most important character in the story. In the book, Scholten is an outsider. He loves music, plays the flute, consistently avoids Hitler Youth meetings, and has once been arrested for vandalism. More than the other boys he resents military regimentation; and he is the only one who dares to talk back to army officers. His only motive for fighting the Americans is avenging the death of one of the other boys. Even so, he does not hate all Americans; and when one GI pleads with the boys to go home, Scholten feels a grudging admiration for him, and avoids shooting him. But Karl, one of the other boys, shoots the American, and Scholten is furious that the “stupid ass” had shot him. When Lieutenant Hampel, who has come to demolish the bridge, tells Scholten to convey the General’s compliments to the other boys, Scholten, his eyes “burning with hatred,” waves his arm at the battle scene, where five of his friends lie dead, and tells Hampel, “There they are, Herr Leutnant, waiting—for the General’s compliments!” If you get a chance, read the book—Dorfmeister has packed a great deal of emotion into its 140 pages.
“The Bridge” was shot with black and white film. This gives it the appearance of a World War II era newsreel. The dialogue is in German, with English subtitles. In some respects, “The Bridge” is not very realistic. It is highly improbable that a small squad of seven teenagers would be equipped with two machine guns, multiple panzerfaust anti-tank weapons and liberal amounts of ammunition—especially if they were not originally expected to do any serious fighting. When “The Bridge” was filmed, the German army did not have large battle tanks. And U.S. Army officers, reading in the script how American tanks were to be shot up by German teenagers, declined to provide American tanks for the movie. So Wicki had to employ dummy tanks. But these technical discrepancies do not reduce the dramatic impact of the story.
This DVD includes some informative extras. (1) Author Gregor Dorfmeister (22 minutes, in German with English subtitles) describing the real life events on which this film was based. (2) Excerpts from a 1989 television interview (15 minutes, in German with English subtitles) with director Bernhard Wicki. (3) A 2015 interview of director Volker Schlondorff (9 minutes, in English), in which he discusses “The Bridge,” its place among German war films, and its impact on viewers. (4) Excerpts from a 2007 documentary about Wicki (9 minutes, in German, with English subtitles), produced by his widow, which give viewers an idea of how “The Bridge” was filmed.