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The Bridge of San Luis Rey

3.3 out of 5 stars 38 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Five people are killed in a freak accident when a lofty rope bridge collapses. A priest journeys to discover if there was a divine reason for this bloody disaster. Set in Lima, Peru, during the 18th century and based on the Thornton Wilder novel.


Mary McGuckian (This is the Sea) has produced a handsome, if curiously inert version of Thornton Wilder's Pulitzer Prize-winning novella. While the story presents a compelling inquiry into the nature of fate, this fourth adaptation, after a 1944 movie and 1958 tele-film, never quite overcomes some odd casting decisions. Set in Lima, Peru in the early-1700s, the story concerns the inquiry by Brother Juniper (Gabriel Byrne) into the deaths of five travelers who drowned when the bridge they were crossing collapsed. Was it divine intervention or random chance? As Juniper tells the Archbishop (Robert De Niro, making no effort to disguise his New York accent), while on trial for heresy, "Either we live by accident and die by accident or we live by plan and die by plan." Using his trial as a framing device, McGuckian flashes back to the circumstances that led the victims to their date with destiny. The primary players include the Viceroy (F. Murray Abraham), La Marquesa (Kathy Bates), the Abbess (Geraldine Chaplin), Uncle Pio (Harvey Keitel), La Perichole (Pilar López de Ayala), and twins Manuel and Esteban (Mark and Michael Polish of Northfork fame). So who fell? Unlike previous productions, the answer won't be revealed until the end, at which point Juniper will be forced to put his findings into a theological context--or suffer the cost. --Kathleen C. Fennessy

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Gabriel Byrne, Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel, Kathy Bates, F. Murray Abraham
  • Directors: Mary McGuckian
  • Writers: Mary McGuckian, Thornton Wilder
  • Producers: Craig Darian, Denise O'Dell, Elvira Bolz, Garrett McGuckian, Howard G. Kazanjian
  • Format: Dolby, Closed-captioned, Color, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround), English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (DTS 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Parental Guidance Suggested
  • Studio: New Line Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: October 11, 2005
  • Run Time: 120 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000ADS61C
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #73,796 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Bridge of San Luis Rey" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Grady Harp HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 13, 2005
Format: DVD
Thorton Wilder's novel of ruminations about the quality of love and the extremes to which it can be played out is more of a philosophical meditation than a story and this is probably the reason many people feel upended by Mary McGuckian's film, a project she both adapted for the screen and directed. If this film seems a bit on the static side there is a reason: the tale is a testimony before court by Brother Juniper (Gabriel Byrne) about his investigation into the deaths of five people when the rope bridge of San Luis Rey outside Lima, Peru collapsed. Brother Juniper stands before the Archbishop of Peru (Robert De Niro) and the Viceroy of Peru (F. Murray Abraham) and poses the question as to whether the incident was an act of God or just a simple accident.

In order to present his case he has researched the lives of the five who died (mentioning those five would ruin the suspense of the story). We learn about The Marquesa (Kathy Bates) whose daughter has departed for Spain to marry well (the Marquesa is starving for the love of her estranged daughter); the kindhearted Abbess (Geraldine Chaplin) who gives refuge to the unwanted including identical twin men Manuel and Esteban (the mute Mark and Michael Polish) and Pepita (Adriana Domínguez). We also meet Uncle Pio (Harvey Keitel) who serves as a harlequin for the court and raises Camila Villegas AKA La Perichola (Pilar López de Ayala) who loves the stage and the accoutrements more than she loves Uncle Pio.
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I loved Thornton Wilder's delicate and moving novel and approached this movie accordingly. By the time I watched it through, I reached a point of exasperation, feeling that so much of it was good or even excellent, yet the pacing suffered and the editing failed to drive the watcher securely along the road to the end. Gabriel Byrne, Harvey Keitel and F. Murray Abraham performed excellently, Byrne in particular. Byrne's ongoing narration does its best to bind the tale together, and his quality of voice enriches this movie, giving it a beauty that persists in my memory. I could only have wished that towards the end he had given us a little more hint of the gathering horror that Brother Juniper must feel at his situation. A horror that will never be allowed a voice.

However, Robert DeNiro was horribly miscast. I am a DeNiro admirer; I have particularly loved his roles in such movies as Awakenings and The Deer Hunter and The Mission. But not here. Whether it is due to the director's reading of the character or his own, he lacked the necessary gravitas to persuade me that he believed in his own identity. He came across as light voiced, dismayingly colloquial, and, perhaps due to the shape of his moustache, perilously close to comical.Even his asking for Brother Juniper's death gave him no depth. John Lynch and Geraldine Chapman fill out their characters amazingly for the shortness of their actual time on screen. Katherine Bates disappointed me a little -- I wanted more heart. Given the nature of the Marquesa, I wanted sloppiness, more piggishness and self-pity from her in the beginning. When Byrne in his overvoice speaks of the tyranny that informs her maternal love, we have only really seen the generosity of that love.
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Format: DVD
This movie is like touring some famous art museum. You go from painting to painting, trying your dutiful best to absorb the greatness. But it's all just too much. You end up suffering from surfeit - your main concern your aching feet.

The photography and costumes in this movie are exquisite and you often feel as if you are indeed looking at a series of the Master's paintings. There are Vermeer moments, and many scenes that would make astonishing still lifes if you freeze the DVD action. But it is all too dense, too thick with brocade and the lives of too many bewigged characters. For the first half of the film, I felt plunged into the alien world of 18th century Peru without enough focus to orient myself. By the second half of the film, I had grasped enough of some of the characters to begin to identify with them and to feel the poignancy of their lives and deaths. But by then, it was too late. I was suffering the tourist's complaint of too much packed into too short a time - if this is Monday, it must be Lima.

They gathered a truly star-studded cast for this film. Except for Kathy Bates and Geraldine Chaplain though, the actors seem a little stiff and out of their element. And in declaiming their lines, some of their words get garbled. That's fatal, because you do need to catch every word that's being said at the outset of this film in order to appreciate what is happening and how the characters are related to each other.

I had read The Bridge as an assignment in high school, but didn't remember it well. This movie presents a student with the opposite of the usual student recourse. Usually, when assigned a "classic" to read as homework, a student can fall back on Cliff's Notes, or better yet - go see the movie. In this case, in order to get a handy take on the movie - you really have to go read the book.
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