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I lived through that time, I was seventeen, and I know fourteen year olds were fighting to the last " boy ". The realism of this film still takes me back to '45. It happened that way.
In my opinion is the best war film I've ever seen. The story is one o the best examples of the nonsense and madness of war. Seems incredible that this movie has been done by Germany and released after 14 years since the end of the war. You can see a traumatic passage from childhood to maturity in the principal characters. The film is from the late fifties so there is no big special effects like "saving private Ryan". Also, the movie is not showing a major and historical battle, with a lot of soldiers and tanks fighting between explosions. In fact,the war scenes can be seen only in the last half hour. The final scene on the bridge is one of the most disturbing scenes of war films.
I had heard about this film from a book on war movies. It actually took me
quite some time to find it, but I'm very glad I was finally able to see
Since this movie is old, and seemingly all but forgotten, I have little knowledge about the making of it, the writer and director's background, or anything else besides the film itself and the comments on this page.
With that in mind, I can say that I was fascinated with this film and was moved and disturbed by its conclusion. Yes, I agree with someone's comments below that there is not much evidence in the movie that the war is humiliatingly flattening Germany. However, I do believe that there were some small town areas that escaped the bombs, and were able to survive from the farmer's produce. What is probably least authentic about the movie is the absence of refugees (although they are mentioned) and the boys' lack of serious Hitler-Youth indoctrination--they do believe in the third reich, however, they never wear HJ uniforms or go to meetings. The Hitler Youth were fanatically loyal to the Nazis, and became the main menace to the allies in the closing months of the war.
The main theme of this movie is the pure waste of Germany's youth by the Nazis. That is the main difference between the closing sequence in this movie and the one in "Saving Private Ryan." These boys died for nothing. The boys that died in this film were like thousands of others killed in this war--brainwashed youth fighting and dying to prolong the Third Reich and Hitler's worthless life for a few more weeks.
This is a very interesting movie for today's American viewers. Although it was made about 15 years after the war, it still has an aged, foreign look and feel to it, and the war has to have been recent in the filmmaker's minds. It is also interesting to see the Americans portrayed as "the enemy." They are treated in the same fashion that American filmmakers usually depict their enemies. The movie will still have everyone sad for these forgotten, abandoned boys. I felt particularly sad for the boy strafed by the plane. Grade: B+
I saw this film at Umass for my German film class in 1990-- this was easily
the best of the films that I saw throughout that semester - and the plate
was full - Metropolis, Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, The Blue Angel, M - all
fantastic films but this one
was the best. Very riveting and fantastic performances from the teens. Saw
"The Thin Red Line" two weeks ago and was sorely disappointed - this is one
of the best war movies of all time - too bad nobody over here in the States
has ever seen it but me and maybe 20 others. They have to settle with
Hollywood crap. A 10 out of 10.
I only saw this movie once, many many years ago, but I never forgot it.I had no idea it was made in 1959 until a client referred me to this website to see if it was useful for work I do for fliers I create every year. I have searched for this movie in video stores for over twenty years and all they ever found in their databases were references to a movie similarly titled about drug smuggling. I gave up years ago. I now know it is still available (but where?). I served in the Marine Corps but was discharged a year before Vietnam. Thank God I did not have the opportunity to implement my training while overseas. I was older than these schoolchildren but just as conditioned and idealistic. Discharged in 1964, I slowly woke up and participated in the protests of the late '60s. Indoctrinated by the educational system of the '50s and John Wayne movies, I would have behaved and felt just like these manipulated young boys in "The Bridge". I strongly recommend this film to anyone interested in the practice of childhood conditioning for political ends. War is sometimes justified, but dying for an empty cause never is. I count this movie in the top 10 best anti-war movies ever made.
I've just managed to get this movie on DVD and watched it. After that, I just sat there and couldn't get up. I wasn't really shocked by the violence (it's all in black-white and there are films who have a lot more violence) but by the conclusion of the film, the meaningless of the fight of these teenage boys. They were just boys, dreaming to be heroes and now they had to face the bloody reality of WWII. One after another of them dies while they are defending this bridge only to learn at the end that their fight was meaningless, because the command has all the time planned to let the brigde explode instead of defending it. This is probably one of the best anti-war films ever made. It really shows the meaningless of war. It is also very interesting because it shows the other side, the side of the Germans. I think, sometimes we only see the side of the winners and forget that also the Germans were just humans (in this case just children). Perhaps this is also a reason why I like this film, only "Das Boot" shows also in a very good way the german side. I recommend for everyone to watch this film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Having read the comments on the film Die Brucke, I was very to glad to
understand that some other people in the world recognize the high quality
it. I thought I was the only one. Other people also think that Spielberg
seen this movie; Saving Private Ryan is compiled of some other war movies,
of which Die Brucke is one.
Bernard Wicki succeeded in putting together many elements into one story,
and that on a low budget basis. Thats brilliant. The contrast between
individual and collective, personal relations and high commands, young
idealism and adult realism, continuity (the river) and temporary (life and
death), rationality and madness. I would especially point to a very
important element. The use of the Hitler Jugend was not only a
well-organised last attempt to turn the tide, but became also a myth in
german society in 1945, and everybody in Germany interprets it in his/her
own way. The young boys interpret this rumor in a very personal way:
their own bridge! But, defending against who?
The enemy, the Americans, have no myths in this movie. They are abstract.
They have reconnaissance flights and small heavy armed patrols, acting on
their own rational thinking, to secure bridges.
These contrasting troops clash at the bridge. And what happens? On both
sides, roughly the same amount of men die. The heavy armed Americans got
withdraw (!). But, in the end the german boy kills the german soldier who
has to blow up the bridge. Who is the enemy here? The withdrawing American
patrol, or the Wehrmacht? This is a brilliant moment in the movie. Due to
the boys, the bridge remains intact, so the Americans have the advantage.
Yes indeed, the boys defended their bridge against the Wehrmacht. Wicki
learns us that myths will contribute to your own defeat. One should act on
personal judgment, based on facts. When the American soldiers shouts:
'Kintergarten!' he is just one of the adults then, not a soldier.
From a story tellers point of view, switches like these makes the film really unique. And from a military point of view, the film is right and telling. And, one should speak German. Translation is very difficult. Language is very important in this movie.
I have also to say that Die Brucke and Das Boot are the best war movies. In both movies, it is shown that rational decisions by individuals conflicted with the myths and/or stupid commands from the leaders. Explaining defeat gives better movies than showing victory. Also, a good lesson to know in these days.
Made in 1959, "The Bridge" is one of the few films from the former West Germany that squarely faces the theme of Nazi defeat. It is a courageous work where content is all important, so much so that it hardly matters that the direction is rather limp and pedestrian and the acting somewhat less than impressive. It is an elegy to lost youth concluding with a caption that vents such anger through the irony of understatement that it earns without question a rightful place among the most seriously committed of anti-war films. The setting is an unspecified small town in Germany where to begin with, apart from a bomb dropped in the river and conversations about hardship and shortages, the war seems far more than a distant rumble away. We follow a group of seven 15 year old boys at school and play until the time when the rapidly approaching American front necessitates their call up and hasty military training. As the military front creeps ever closer they are given the role of defending a bridge over a river, the wisdom of which is seriously questioned by several of their superior offices but which they eagerly take on in the spirit of boyhood heroism combined with what one can well imagine to be the ideology instilled into them by past experience of the Hitler Youth. The terrible last half hour in which their baptism by fire is recorded in graphic detail through the stages of excitement, terror and death is gruelling to watch, the more so because the youth of the sufferers generates so much anger at such waste and loss. I would not for one moment claim the "The Bridge" is in the same league as Kubrick's "Paths of Glory", Helma Sanders-Brahms's "Germany, Pale Mother" or Klimov's "Come and See" - Bernhard Wicki is a lesser director who never quite succeeds in making each of the seven protagonists a memorable character - but nevertheless he manages convincingly to flesh out in dramatic form the terrible reality behind that awesome newsreel footage of Hitler encouraging boy troops amid the rubble of Berlin. "The Bridge" brings home more than most films the madness of it all.
Once you got used to the fact that this movie is b&w (which I think
does create the movie atmosphere the more 'authentic'), you get a good
insight in the German state of mind towards the end of WWII. The elders
get the sense that "the cause" is lost (nobody in his right mind after
Stalingrad believed in the >Endsieg< - definitely the least the Nazis
themselves!), the teens however are stuck with their NS idealism,
marred by the fact that first love, sex and self expression are
difficult to handle during these times of change ... Well, I love the
movie since I first saw it in Germany as a teenager,it is also very
apparent to me that Steven Spielberg has seen this movie - it
definitely influenced his 'Private Ryan' epic, which is surely a better
"graphical" war movie, however typically for the US mentality today and
yesterday: war is still good if your a patriotic guy on the good side
well just get it, watch it!
When I saw in news accounts the lovely yet fearful face of a 16
year-old, who had defected from the Taliban during the campaign against
terrorists in Afghanistan, in the aftermath of the 9/11, I was taken
back to Bernhard Wicki's Die Brücke (The Bridge), to the faces of young
German boys who were recruited by the Nazis to defend a "last"
bridgehead, in the final days of World War II in Europe. In both cases,
young "true believers" were used as cannon fodder by cynical adults in
their futile power games, which they had disguised as moral crusades.
A tiny band of boys, holding weapons as big as they, their bodies and faces still soft and fresh and tight, facing the juggernaut of tanks and artillery and machine guns which we know will soon tear them to pieces. And for what? An ideal?
I suspect that The Bridge was the basis for the Timothy Hutton, Sean Penn vehicle, "Taps". However, The Bridge is the starker and more brutal treatment because, unlike the what-if story of Taps, the what-if does not apply to The Bridge. In fact, throughout history, the use of children in furtherance of warfare has a sickening frequency, the earliest I know of being the Children's Crusade, and now we have the Tamil Tigers (little girls with lockets of cyanide vials) and Palestinian boy bombs.
The Bridge deserves to be revived and shown to as wide an audience as possible in this Dastardly New World we live in.
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