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For those of you interested in trivia....This movie was filmed in the city of Cham located in Oberpfalz, Bavaria, West Germany about 30 miles from what was the Czech border at the time. I was born in Cham in 1960 after the movie was made, but my mother tells me she remembers being there for the filming of the movie. We lived about 20 meters from the river (Regen River) and the bridge was about 100 meters from our home. She also told me that for the filming of the movie, all the large trees along the river had to be cut down. The city's population has grown from about 10K to 20K since then. I know that this city actually did get bombed during the war, they are still finding live bombs buried underground at many construction sites within the city.
This film is a surprise. After all these years it still is possible to find a film who can astound. Probably one of the best anti-war films ever made. Maybe even the best. And that is saying a lot. The story is stripped down to the bone. All that matters is the message it brings. And it is a magnificent message. The film takes you back to the last weeks before the end of what probably is the greatest catastrophe in German (if not European) history. It leaves the viewer with a vicious taste of all that is foul and dirty in war. The stench of death and pointless destruction. This film is nothing short of a true masterpiece. I have seen most 'warmovies' in my life, but 'Die Brucke' tops them all. This film should be on anybody's short list. Momentous, grand and a stroke of genius.
I saw this on television one night when I was about eleven or twelve
years old. Walter Cronkite introduced the movie as a German-made,
anti-war film. He warned the audience of its disturbing nature and the
depiction of young boys, Hitler Youth, being used to defend a bridge in
Three things I still remember occurring in the story: One of the boys becoming enraged when one of the American soldiers facing them called out, "Go back to kindergarten!". Another was when one boy fired his Panzerfaust and the back blast caught another boy full in the face. Lastly, what I remember.....I could be wrong......to be the last lines in the movie being a boy calling out to one of his friends, "Karl! Karl!" and the look of terror on his face.
I only saw this movie once many years ago and yet its impact has stayed with me all this time. I would like very much to see it again and that, I believe, is a mark of a good movie.
I saw this movie when it was first released , i was 16 Years of age, it
ever since been my anchor point on my view of what war is all
A group of teens under the guidance of an old man to old to be a warrior
anylonger is tasked to defend the towns sole connection to the rest of the
In the real worl of teenagers and peer groups this occours all the time , though not in a global conflict setting, where death is a regular participant in the drama, but the issues of friendship, loyalty to group , let alone nation, is just as real. The futility of war and its inability to solve problems in any way other than it's irreversible finality is shown with great finesse here.
Youthfull spirit and age/experience leavened judgment clash as they allways seem to do and nobody wins. In the end the destruction of war is shown in its full futility. I liked the movie when i first saw it , it greatly impressed me then with its full character development. Other war movies can take a page from it in that it does not glorify war as so many other movies do.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
THE BRIDGE 1958
This is a 1959 war film was made in West Germany by director Bernard Wicki. The film is based on a 1958 novel of the same name and is based on an actual event from WW2. It is the end of April 1945, and the war in Europe is drawing to its conclusion.
A group of 16 year old school boys are wondering when the war will reach their small village. They are all waiting for their call up orders to join the army. They do not understand just how serious and dangerous war is. They all feel excitement at setting out on a great adventure. The warnings of their mothers and the older men who lived throughWW1 fall on deaf ears.
The first third of the film follows the lads as they attend school, play and chase girls. They see their parent's world falling apart around them but are at a loss as to why. The one lad's father is the local Nazi Party bigwig who is busy packing in order to get away before the Americans arrive. Another boy's mother wants to hide the boy on a farm outside town.
The boys all get their call up papers to report to the local barracks for training. They get one day of said training when the local combat situation falls to pieces. The Americans are only a few miles away. Everyone, including the raw recruits, are gathered up and sent to stop the American breakthrough.
One veteran NCO and the 7 local lads are assigned to guard the small bridge into their village. They have some rifles, two machine guns and several anti-tank Panzerfaust RPG's. They set up the weapons and wait.
Their NCO heads off to the village to see if he can find something hot to drink. He runs into several Military Police types. They accuse the man of being a deserter. The NCO tries to explain but is executed by the MP types. The boys assume that the NCO has fled and are now bound and determined to do "their duty for the Fatherland".
During the night they are surprised by a steady stream of German trucks fleeing across the bridge loaded with wounded etc. The boys are not sure what they are to do as all officers just ignore them in their flight from the front. The 7 take a vote and all agree to stay and man their posts.
They do not have long to wait for matters to heat up. An American fighter bomber strafes the bridge killing one of the boys. Then a group of American infantry soon come down the road supported by several tanks. The lads leap to their weapons and wait.
One of the boys manages to hit one of the tanks with a Panzerfaust, destroying it. Now the fight is on with rounds flying from both sides. For a group of untrained boys, the German lads do quite well, destroying another of the tanks and killing several of the American infantry. The Americans pull out to re-group.
The two surviving boys are of course completely rattled by what has happened to their friends. Now a German vehicle pulls up from the other end of the bridge. Several demolitions men start unloading boxes of explosives. They are there to blow up the bridge to deny it to the advancing Americans. The man in charge tells the two boys to take off as the real soldiers are here.
The two boys realize that their friends have died in vain, defending a bridge that is to be destroyed anyways. This pushes the two over the mental edge and they shoot the explosives men. Another of the boys is killed in the exchange. The survivor has gone right around the twist and wanders off holding his head in his hands.
This is a very hard hitting film. It was nominated for an Oscar as Best Foreign Language Film.
At the end this message flashes across the screen, "This event occurred on April 27, 1945. It was so unimportant that it was never mentioned in any war communique."
This one is well worth a watch if you can find it.
I admit some wariness with this film. It's one of those works the whole point of which is "mechanized war is really bad!" Who would have thought? The film is, however, somewhat unique for socio-historical reasons. Made in Germany less than 15 years after the fall of the Reich, it documents the experience of German teens in the last throws of the war as they, and senior citizens, were ordered by the regime to die for "the honor of the Homeland" after it was clear to all that the Axis had lost, one of the Nazis's last atrocities. The film details how the Nazis exploited German cultural iconography to seduce the youth into believing in a hopeless cause, some of the highlights of western culture deployed for the lowest of aims. The film's cinematography views like a historical gallery of German cinema, before and after this film. The first half, about the boys' civilian lives, is a proto-Fassbinderian combination of Hollywood melodrama and psychological realism. The later scenes of the front utilize the imagery of German silent expressionism to make the war a literal nightmare-scape. The final battle is horrific and bombastic, besuiting an anti-war film. Hollywood has clearly defacto plagiarized this section of the film plenty. Empty spectacle like Saving Private Ryan, and similar works are proved to be not only vapid, but derivatively vapid.
This German contender for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar is an
unflinching war effort that obviously draws comparisons in its
narrative depicting the disillusionment experienced by a number of
schoolboys-turned-soldiers with ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT
(1930), albeit dealing with the subsequent world conflict. Though only
rated * by the "Leslie Halliwell Film Guide", it boasts a favourable
write-up therein on the other hand, I was under the impression that
it was given more than *** in the Leonard Maltin equivalent! For the
record, it has received its due in "War Movies" an oversized but
appealing book on the subject owned by my father and is even listed
in the all-time top 3,000 movies ranked by the "Wonders In The Dark"
The acclaim this garnered upon release won Wicki the co-director gig on Darryl F. Zanuck's super production revolving around the D-Day landings THE LONGEST DAY (1962); his brief Hollywood tenure also comprised THE VISIT (1964) and, another WWII adventure, MORITURI (1965) a distinguished actor in his own right, he is perhaps best-known for his supporting turn in Michelangelo Antonioni's LA NOTTE (1961). With respect to the film's cast, only the face of a youthful Fritz Wepper future co-star of CABARET (1972) and the "Derrick" TV series was familiar to this viewer. Oddly boasting no credits on the print I watched (except for the title and company credits!), this competed at the Oscars against Italy's THE GREAT WAR a viewing of which followed in quick succession that concerned itself, albeit on a vaster scale and in a serio-comic tone, with WWI but they were surprisingly defeated by the exotic French entry i.e. BLACK ORPHEUS.
The movie is basically divided into three parts: the first 40 minutes showing the boys in school; the next 30 illustrating their basic training and posting; and the last half-hour being devoted to the combat sequences. Most of the teenage boys are coming-of-age and experience their first sexual hang-ups before being sent to the front: a blond boy with the only female student in the class; another the salesgirl in his father's shop (who is also the boss' lover); and the cowardly Mayor's son towards the gymnasium instructor in a nearby girls' school. The battle scenes are certainly effectively rendered and appropriately harrowing, if occasionally over-the-top: a G.I., astonished to be confronted by a bunch of 16 year-olds, tells them to run off to their mothers but they find his condescending attitude insulting and he is literally gutted by their response!; an equally disdainful local, then, has his face blown off and body scarred by a backfiring bazooka, etc. The supreme irony of the film is that, while the boys' superior officer (who is himself shot almost instantly for apparent desertion by his own compatriots!) orders them to defend the expendable bridge ostensibly to keep the kids out of harm's way, the fact that the German forces intend blowing it up regardless so as to stem the Allied advance ensures that all but one of the fresh-faced soldiers sacrifice their lives to the fatherland unnecessarily!
It's always a bit of a problem watching a movie with subtitles. Some of
the dialogue on this is so quick I had to pause and rewind to catch all
that was said.
Despite this I found myself drawn in to the story. The acting of the boys covered so many of the traits you would expect to find in youths. The futility of continuing the war is well portrayed as is the impact on the general population.
The haunting aspect is the eagerness that young (soon to be) men have for war and the ease with which their minds are led to believe that they must fight for a cause. This movie was set during WWII but that aspect of the story could just as easily apply today in other conflicts today.
The closing action scenes have a few flaws, as noted by other reviewers, but this doesn't detract from the main focus of the movie.
It is an anti-war movie, but not in the glossy manner of Saving Private Ryan.
It's 1945 in a small German town. Seven young innocent boys still buy
into the propaganda even as the Americans are closing in. They are
recruited into the Army and after one day of training, they are sent to
guard the local bridge. A veteran leads the group who plans to protect
the boys by blowing up the bridge. He is mistaken for a deserter and
shot to death. The boys, with no other orders, decide to defend the
bridge against the overwhelming American forces.
The first half deals with the boys in an idyllic town during the last days of the Nazi regime. It's not that thrilling. There are a few compelling scenes but it moves too slowly overall. The young actors don't distinguish themselves out of the pack. I like some of the scenes with them together but the first half could be condensed. The second half has more of the action. It's sometimes shoot in a melodramatic fashion but it is a compelling story.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It is April 1945, the final weeks of the Third Reich, and the small
town of Bad Tölz in southern Germany, midway between Munich and
Innsbruck, is bracing for an attack by the American army. Bad Tölz is
divided into western and eastern sections by the River Isar, which is
spanned by a narrow bridge. Although German army officers plan to
demolish the bridge soon to impede the American advance, seven
16-year-old German boys are sent to defend itat first, their
commanders expect that the boys will go home before the fighting
starts; later, the officers intend that the boys will offer token
resistance (forcing the Americans to bring up reinforcements), and then
retire so a German demolition team can blow up the bridge before the
American reinforcements arrive. Most of the adultswhether parents,
teachers, or army officersare surprised when the 16 year olds are
drafted, and are convinced that these youths are putting their lives at
risk for no purpose. But the boys themselves have grown up under the
Nazi regime and absorbed its values. To them, military duties offer a
chance to show their courage and to follow orders. At first, it is
still like a gameone boy suggests using as an observation post a
"fort" they had used when playing cowboys and Indians. But, when the
firing starts, they discover that it is not a game.
This film is based on Gregor Dorfmeister's (penname Manfred Gregor) novel which grew out of his real life experiences as a teenage German soldier. In the novel the story begins 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 personalitysome are more mature than others. The movie gives us a good understanding of some of the boysJürgen's desire to be an army officer, Walter's resentment of his Nazi fatherbut 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, waitingfor the General's compliments!" If you get a chance, read the bookDorfmeister 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 ammunitionespecially 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.
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