Tuesday, 11 August 2015

The Bridge (2008)

The original Die Brücke was released in 1959, garnering international acclaim.  This remake received a much less positive reception, with German commentators feeling that it lacked the intensity of the original.  I've only seen this version, so I can't confirm the claim, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was true.  I'll discuss why that is, but I first I need to give you a precis of the movie for some context.

The basic outline of the film is pretty simple. The titular bridge is in a small German town during the closing months of World War 2.  Seven local boys, who have somehow managed to retain their naive romanticism about the war, are drafted into the military.  This appears to be an arbitrary decision from the top, not one requested by local commanders, as the latter are well aware that a handful of untrained teenagers will not make any difference to the outcome of the war.

The youngsters are assigned to 'guard' a bridge, more or less as a means of keeping them out of the way while the real soldiers pull back.  The only trained soldier left with them has orders to send the boys home once the wounded have been evacuated.  However, he decides to desert his post instead, so the young men never get that order.

Thus, when US advance forces arrive the seven boys fight to defend their bridge.  Somehow they manage to put up enough resistance that the American scouts withdraw to await reinforcements.  The action leaves only two of the youngsters alive, however, and they are horrified when they discover that German sappers are readying to blow up the bridge that their friends died to hold.  They drive the sappers away, though one of them is fatally wounded in the process, leaving only a single, shell-shocked survivor as US forces roll into the town once more.

Clearly the whole point of the movie is the futility of the struggle these young men endured.  Toxic ideas about manhood and nationalism lead them to fight and die long after the real army has withdrawn, and in the end they manage to hold up the enemy for a matter of a few hours at most.  Then the one thing they might actually have achieved - giving the sappers time to destroy the bridge and thus deny it to the enemy - they undo because they don't even understand why they were defending it.

Understanding the point the film is trying to make is not the same as actually feeling it, however, and it there that the movie fails.  We never really get to know five of the young men, so their deaths have little emotional weight, and one of the two who we do get to know is a sexual predator, so I'm not exactly choked up about his death, either.

This film shoots wide of the mark.

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