Blu-Ray Review: The Bridge (Criterion) | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Thursday, September 28th, 2023  

The Bridge

Studio: Criterion

Jun 18, 2015 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Released in 1959, Bernhard Wicki’s tragic WW2 drama was one of the first such films to emerge from Germany after the war. Set during the last months of World War II, the first act of The Bridge introduces us a group of boys in a small German town. It starts out like most any film 1950s film about teenagers: the boys gripe about high school, their mothers, and girls; they play pranks and pick on one another, and pilfer hooch. You’d hardly notice a war was going on, if not for the foreign workers who’ve filled the town, the references to family members on the front, or trains carrying civilians away from the fighting. Everyone tries to ignore the approach of Allied Forces and go about their lives the best they can.

As American troops close in, the boys are recruited into the local military training facility. In less than a day, though, the barracks is summoned to war. An officer leaves the boys to defend a nearby bridge with no strategic value in order to keep the untrained soldiers away from the fighting. (They’re planning to blow up the bridge so the Americans can’t use it, anyway.) But in the confusion of battle, the boys are cut off from their commanding officers—and engage in a hopeless firefight against a unit of opposing tanks and infantry.

The end credits explain that the film was based on real events that happened in April 1945, which only makes the boys’ sacrifice feel more pointless. The Bridge is an extremely effective antiwar film made even more notable by its German origin. It moves slowly, which allows the audience time to properly get to know each young man, but the climactic battle to defend the bridge—which comprises the film’s full third act—is absolutely riveting. (Not to mention graphic, for a film of its time.)

Criterion’s Blu-ray preserves the film’s 4:3 aspect ratio. The image appears quite clean, with strong contrast. Bonus features include interviews with novelist Gregor Dorfmeister, who wrote the film’s semi-autobiographical source material, and filmmaker Volker Schlöndorff (The Tin Drum), who explains the influence Wicki had on the New German Cinema directors. There’s also a late ‘80s interview with Wicki and an excerpt from a recent documentary that features some rare, behind-the-scenes footage from The Bridge. All-in-all, it’s not the embarrassment of riches we sometimes see from Criterion, but it’s a nice, educational package for a powerful movie.

Author rating: 6.5/10

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