I was in the Goethe-Institut when I accidentally stumbled across this film. I went to IMDb and found good references about the film and its director and as an added attraction it featured Maria Schell in the main role. And the story seemed interesting.
A German nurse, Helga (Maria Schell) is kidnapped by Yugoslavian partisans. Their doctor has died and they need another one. Helga has medical training, so she's forced to go with them. At first she goes with them unwillingly. She doesn't like them and they don't like her. As the time goes by, she begins to see them as they really are, not anymore as bandits, but as human beings that need her help. And while they are going through mountains and crossing rivers, a new understanding of the people and the land dawn on her. Sometimes they are attacked by German forces. And Helga begins to suspect that maybe things are not so simple as she once thought. She's doesn't know anymore where she belongs.
This subject could have easily led to a maudlin or preachy film, but "Die Letzte Brücke" avoids these traps. "Die Letzte Brücke" manages to convey emotion through a skillful use of images and words - close-ups on Maria Schell's face, on other faces, the mountains, the rivers, the bridges. When partisan commandant Boro (Bernhard Wicki) and Helga are passing by a cemetery, he says to Helga: "Here are buried the German soldiers", and then, with a wide gesture, showing the landscape, mountains and all, he says: "and there are buried our people, my people, our land". As you see, images and words work together, the emotion conveyed by them is deep, but the film is not at all melodramatic.
"Die Letzte Brücke" is a refreshing change from the Hollywood diet that we are forced to swallow. The world war 2 movies made in Hollywood are usually simplistic and shallow. This film will raise many questions for those are still able to think. And Maria Schell's acting is simply superb. Highly recommended!
P.S. - Some Germans of the older generation thought that Italy's armistice with the Allies was a betrayal. An Italian character that appears in the beginning of the film is shown in an unsympathetic light. A little later on, when the Italians are celebrating the armistice, a German officer comments bitterly on the "opportunism" of the Italians. Was this character expressing Helmut Käutner's opinion? I don't know. Anyway, as most people, on seeing the film, won't probably even notice the things I'm talking about, this is not so important. More food for thought!
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