The Bridge Criterion Collection Blu-ray review
Water flows down the river at a rapid pace as rain falls. Then, out of nowhere but likely expected, a bomb drops, disrupting the peace in the water and the town.
War is in its final months, but still it is hard for the townspeople not to worry: a mother is concerned her son will be drafted, another discusses her son enlisting. The boys they talk about are still in school. In the hallway, they have fun with girls and each other. When they enter the classroom and spot the map of where the troops lines are, they come up with strategies that would end the war, as if it is just that simple.
They are, for the most part, a passionate and lively bunch, who show interest in girls, drawing and romantic literature. But a time will come when the boys will be put into action, depicted so subtly and yet so effectively when one of the boys tosses a rock into the river, making a splash that mimes the bomb that opened the film.
Thanks to a plea from their teacher, the boys are assigned to protect a local bridge, which the Germans plan to demolish soon anyway. It is a pointless task, but the boys are unaware, and so treat their mission with the seriousness of the soldiers that came before them.
Because THE BRIDGE (DIE BRUCKE in its mother language) takes the time to introduce and get to know these characters before their recruitment, we can know them when they are in action. This approach—the boys don’t don their uniforms until 45 minutes in—helps make the film one of the more tragic anti-war films ever.
THE BRIDGE is directed by Bernhard Wicki, who would go on to direct the German episodes of 1962’s war epic THE LONGEST DAY, which earned him a shared Directors Guild of America nod. (Wicki would also have two films, 1964’s THE VISIT and 1989’s DAS SPINNENNETZ, nominated for the Palme d’Or.) Wicki keeps a close eye on his subjects, at least in part because they represent a certain mindset, and Wicki seeks to wake them up to the realities. Indeed, Wicki’s own rebellious nature secured his place at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp.
THE BRIDGE is a devastating work about disillusionment and those that believed that they marched “Forward for the Fuhrer, the People and the Fatherland.” To watch the boys—portrayed by Karl Michael Balzer, Folker Bohnet, Michael Hinz, Günther Hoffmann, Frank Glaubrecht, Volker Lechtenbrink and Fritz Wepper—go from pranks inside the school’s hallways to serving as potential “cannon fodder” on the bridge, as well as witnessing their spirits change, is tragic and an observant demonstration of what war can do to fragile minds.
THE BRIDGE earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film (it lost to Marcel Camus’ BLACK ORPHEUS) and won the Golden Globe in the same category (tying with France’s BLACK ORPHEUS, Japan’s ODD OBSESSION, Sweden’s WILD STRAWBERRIES and Germany’s WIR WUNDERKINDER).
Video: 1.37:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. “This new digital transfer was created in 2K resolution on an ARRISCAN film scanner from the original 35 mm negative and a 35 mm duplicate negative. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, and warps were manually removed using MTI’s DRS, while Digital Vision’s Phoenix was used for jitter, flicker, small dirt, grain, and noise management.”
THE BRIDGE looks stellar in this high-definition transfer, with an image that is cleaned up to highlight details and yet still maintains the filmic quality.
Audio: German Mono. Subtitles in English. “The original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the optical soundtrack negative. Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum, and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD, AudioCube’s integrated workstation, and iZotope RX 4.”
The audio is quite nice, with clean dialogue and strong sound effects (particularly during the war sequences).
Gregor Dorfmeister (22:41): Dorfmeister, whose first novel was adapted into THE BRIDGE, discusses the autobiographical elements within the story, as well as the legacy of both his 1958 work and the 1959 film.
Bernhard Wicki (14:36): In this excerpt from a 1989 episode of German television series DAS SONNTAGSGESPRACH, director Wicki discusses making THE BRIDGE and his time spent in a concentration camp.
Volker Schlöndorff (9:52): Director Schlöndorff (1979’s COUP DE GRACE, 1979’s THE TIN DRUM) share his thoughts on THE BRIDGE and the impact the films of Wicki had on the New German Cinema.
AGAINST THE GRAIN: THE FILM LEGEND OF BERNHARD WICKI (9:04): This excerpt from the 2007 documentary includes portions on THE BRIDGE.
Also included with this Criterion Collection release is an essay by film critic Terrence Rafferty.