Criterion Restores WWII Classic “The Bridge” on Blu-ray

by Eric Melin on June 25, 2015

in Blu-ray/DVD Reviews,Reviews

[Rock Fist Way Up]

“It’s fun playing war, huh?”

A German schoolteacher interrupts his students as they stare at a map of advancing American troops, excited that the action of war is coming so close to them. It’s hard for them not to get caught up in the excitement, but soon their lives will irrevocably change. All of the daydreaming about girls, sneaking cigarettes, and finding liquor stashes will end. The boys are elated to get draft notices. They’re idealistic, and ready to fight for the Fatherland.

Things will not turn out well for the seven boys in Bernhard Wicki’s 1950 WWII drama The Bridge (Die Brücke), out now in a stellar 2K digital restoration on Criterion Blu-ray. But the reason this Oscar-nominated drama is so affecting is that Wicki takes time to set up each of the boys as three-dimensional characters with individual traits. Their naiveté is only part of it. Each of the 16-year old boys has their own drama at home, usually involving their own fathers who, in stark contrast to the boys, are hypocrites. Meanwhile, their mothers and the schoolteacher (“I can’t see the sacrificed this late in the war!”) are caring.

Onscreen text at he end of the film reads: “This event occurred on April 27, 1945. It was so unimportant that it was never mentioned in any war communique.” Indeed, The Bridge was inspired by a true story from the book The Bridge, by Gregor Dorfmeister (writing under the pseudonym Manfred Gregor). I won’t reveal the details of how these young men arrive at the eponymous location to serve their country, but suffice it to say that one awful circumstance after another keeps piling up until their courage is tested beyond and for no apparent reason.

The Bridge is one of the best anti-war movies I’ve ever seen. Certainly its about the futility of war, but it goes farther than that. From an American perspective, its unusual to see German soldiers portrayed in a human light, much less courageous teenagers who think they are doing the right thing. The beautiful black-and-white cinematography has a timeless quality to it, and Wicki’s classical narrative chops don’t hurt. It’s truly exciting to see a film I’d never heard of before now that moves me so much. Cheers once again to Criterion for continuing to deliver.

Director Volker Schlondorff has a short interview on the Blu-ray in which he expresses the influence that The Bridge had on he and others in the new German Cinema movement. There’s also a new interview with Dorfmeister, a 1989 interview with Wicki, and an excerpt from a 2007 documentary by Wicki’s widow.

Eric is the Editor-in-Chief of Scene-Stealers.com and writes the Screen Stealers column for The Pitch. He’s President of the KCFCC, and drummer for The Dead Girls and Ultimate Fakebook. He is also Air Guitar World Champion Mean Melin. Eric goes to 11. Follow him at:

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