The Bridge of San Luis Rey
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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
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The visuals are beautiful in the movie. Unfortunately the movie drags and the dialog can be painful and dated.
The actors all seem to fit their parts but Robert Deniro- who I really like, seems to be the only one acting out of the era he is supposed to be living in.
It is like he broke character at certain points also. Too bad- this movie had promise and some very good stars are in it.
First, an admission: This movie is not for everyone. Nor is it a good movie for viewing as a family or group -- far too layered! The reviewers who panned this movie were probably expecting something closer to normal movie fare. This is not that. This movie demands intellectual investment and the ability to entertain things not often discussed.
With that said, however, this IS a movie that is valuable for anyone willing to think deeply about often unspoken life issues. For anyone struggling with personal tragedy and/or disappointment, and willing to think critically about it, this is a superior movie. Yes, it has some pacing issues, and the way it envisions the novel is not always perfect, but overall it succeeds admirably. It presents very difficult subject matter in a visually appealing way. It tells the story of another time, transporting the viewer to a different place in order to gain a new perspective on the universal human condition -- the things we struggle with here and now, viewed in transcendent lens.
As the Book of Job says, "Man is born for trouble as surely as sparks fly upward." This movie deals with that human reality, tackling head on the question of evil: "Why do bad things happen to good people?" And, "How can I accept the good providence of God in the presence of tragedy?"
The big theme of the movie is our human struggle to understand and accept divine Providence: to accept that there is good at work even in our most fearsome or evil circumstance, and that at the end of the day Love will rule over all. English poet William Cowper once wrote, "Behind a frowning providence, God hides a smiling face." This movie is a journey to the smile, after encountering the frown. It is a call to endure in the pilgrimage of life, even when it doesn't seem possible or desirable to do so. It is a call to believe, even when the systems of belief turn against us.
The secondary theme of the movie is almost as big as the first: how does a person accept Providence whenever the appointed guardians of faith act in a manner incompatible with divine Love? Brother Juniper, in his impassioned attempt to reveal the Love of God even in the fatal accident at the bridge, runs afoul of church authorities. They do not appreciate his attempt to "Think the thoughts of God after Him." So, in his effort to show his parishioners Love in the midst of evil, he encounters more evil -- evil enacted in the name of God, no less!
So, as you can see, this isn't "easy" or lite movie-fare. But if you are ready to hear such questions asked, and see them dealt with in a hopeful and faithful manner, then this movie is for you: a visual, intellectual and spiritual treat. You may learn more about life and more about true love.
In the words of the movie, "Many who have spent a lifetime in passion can tell us less of love than the child that lost a dog yesterday." So true!
This movie explores the loss, and in the process, shows us something more of love.
Money quote for the movie: "Either we live by accident and die by accident, or we live by plan and die by plan. Some say that we shall never know and that to the gods we are like the flies that the boys kill on a summer day, and some say, on the contrary, that the very sparrows do not lose a feather that has not been brushed away by the finger of God."
This movie addresses that mystery not rationally, but existentially. And powerfully.
You'll be a better person for watching it, even if watching it is not completely easy, lol.
The film revolves around the dead of five people and father Juniper's thesis to the inquisition if they were or not worthy of this fate. Then, the movie flashes back and forth to tell you the story of those who perished and the ones who didn't, and that's when La Perricholi and Amat come into place; the real story between the two would never be shown here (and the book is quite the same).
Nevertheless, it's a good movie to watch. Great actors, beautiful photography! Filmed in Spain, not Peru (the buildingsare more magnificent and the mountains are much smaller). Honestly, I enjoyed it very much, maybe not for accuracy, but for the love of the fairytale.
Hollywood has tried three times to turn _The Bridge of San Luis Rey_ into a movie. The only thing I can suggest at this point--if anyone wants to try again--is to strip out the period setting & the antiquated Catholicism altogether, and try something "loosely based on" or "inspired by." That might work... After all, at the core of the narrative are the BIG questions that endure and exist in any time period & locale--even an ultramodern one.
So we either need a total redux here, or...just leave the book alone, and let it stand as a story to be READ, not a movie to be watched. One of the reasons the novel is so highly regarded is the reserved & spare nature of Thornton Wilder's writing. So figure that the trouble comes in attempting to translate that minimalism onto the big screen.
It simply doesn't work.
I can accept a film that is different from the novel; they are two different things. I'm not sure how someone would assess this film without reading the book. I imagine it would seem very dry. I enjoyed it because of the performances and KNOWING the novel.