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The Bridge – The Criterion Collection #763 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 11, 2015 by  



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“The Bridge” is a wonderful post-World War II film by filmmaker Bernhard Wicki with an anti-war message that would win over audiences but also usher a new generation of New German Cinema filmmakers.  Thought provoking and recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2015 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Bridge – The Criterion Collection #763

YEAR OF FILM: 1959

DURATION: 103 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:37:1 aspect ratio, B&W,  German Monaural LPCM 1.0, Subtitles: English SDH

COMPANY: Janus Films/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: June 23, 2015


Directed by Bernhard Wicki

Based on the Novel by Manfred Gregor

Written by Michael Mansfeld, Karl-Wilhelm Vivier

Produced by Hermann Schwerin

Co-Producer: Jochnen Schwerin

Executive Producer: Hans Wolff

Cinematography by Gerd von Bonin

Edited by Carl Otto Bartning

Production Design by Heinrich Graf Bruhl, Peter Scharff

Costume Design by Josef Wanke


Starring:

Folker Bohnet as Hans Scholten

Fritz Wepper as Albert Mutz

Michael Hinz as Walter Forst

Fran Glaubrecht as Jurgen Borchert

Karl Michael Balzer as Karl Horber

Volker Lechtenbrink as Klaus Hager

Gunther Hoffman as Sigi Bernhard

Cordula Trantow as Franziska

Wolfgang Stumpf as Stern

Gunter Pfitzmann as Heilmann

Heinz Spitzner as Frohlich

Siegfriend Schurenberg as Lt. Colonel

Ruth Hausmeister as Mrs. Mutz

Eva Vaitl as Mrs. Borchert

Edith Schultze-Westrum as Mother Bernhard

Hans Elwenspoek as Mr. Forst

Trude Brietschopf as Mrs. Forst

Klaus Hellmold as Mr. Horber

Inge Benz as Sigrun


The astonishing The Bridge, by Bernhard Wicki (The Longest Day), was the first major antiwar film to come out of Germany after World War II, as well as the nation’s first postwar film to be widely shown internationally, even securing an Oscar nomination. Set near the end of the war, it follows a group of teenage boys in a small town as they contend with everyday matters like school, girls, and parents, before enlisting as soldiers and being forced to defend their home turf in a confused, terrifying battle. This expressively shot, emotionally bruising drama dared to humanize young German soldiers at a historically tender moment, and proved influential for the coming generation of New German Cinema auteurs.

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From Austrian filmmaker and actor Bernhard Wicki comes the anti-war 1959 West German film “Die Brucke” (The Bridge).

Based on the novel by journalist and writer Manfred Gregor, which was an autobiographical account of forced youth service in the Volkssturm (people’s army) very late during World War II.

The film would gain worldwide attention and would also lead to the popularity of Wicki and would lead him to take part as co-director in the film, “The Longest Day” (1962).

“The Bridge” would win four German Film Awards, the Golden Globe Award and National Board of Review Award for “Best Foreign Language Film”, “Best Film” award at the FIPRESCI Prize at the Mar del Plata Film Festival and would be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

And now “The Bridge” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of the Criterion Collection in June 2015.

“The Bridge” revolves around a group of teenagers who are drafted into the military.

But each teenager has their own problem and makes them want to fight in the war even more.  Karl Horber (portrayed by Karl Michael Balzer) is a boy who has a crush on his father’s young assistant, unaware that his father also fancies her; Klaus Hager (portrayed by Volker Lechtenbrink) has a very good female friend, but is oblivious to the fact that she likes him; Walter Forst (portrayed by Michael Hinz) despises his father, who is the local Nazi Party Ortsgruppenleither and sends his mother away and thinks about saving his own skin from the Americans rather than think about his family; Jurgen Borcher (portrayed by Frank Galubrecht) is a boy who wants to live up to his father’s ideals as a German officer who was killed in action and the shortest friend, Sigi Bernhard (portrayed by Gunther Hoffman) lives with his aunt, who barely has any money to take care of him.

But while each are very good friends with their own set of problems, like all young boys, they feel they can be great soldiers and fight for their country and their town.  And so, the boys are asked to defend the local bridge from the approaching Americans.


VIDEO:

“The Bridge – The Criterion Collection #763” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:37:1 aspect ratio) black and white. The film looks fantastic for its age. There is a good amount of grain, skintones look natural and I saw no sign of softness, discoloration or excessive DNR.  Grays and whites are well-contrast while blacks are inky and deep.

According to the Criterion Collection, “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.”

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for audio, “The Bridge – The Criterion Collection #763” is presented in German LPCM 1.0 monaural. Dialogue is clear with no sign of hiss or crackle.

According to the Criterion Collection, “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 RX4.”

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Bridge – The Criterion Collection #763″ comes with the following special features:

  • Gregor Dorfmeister – (22:42) A 2015 interview with author Gregor Dorfmeister discussing the real life experiences featured in his book and his thoughts on the film.
  • Bernhard Wicki – (14:36) An excerpt from a 1989 episode of the German TV show “Das Sonntagsgesprach” featuring director Bernhard Wicki discussing his film.
  • Volker Schlondorff – (9:52) Featuring a Feb. 2015 interview with filmmaker Volker Schlondorff on how “The Bridge” impacted younger Germans and his generation of filmmakers known as the New German Cinema.
  • Against the Grain: The Film Legend of Bernhard Wicki – (9:05) An excerpt from the 2007 documentary “Against the Grain: The Film Legend of Bernhard Wicki” with Wicki’s widow, Elisabeth Wicki-Endriss.

EXTRAS:

“The Bridge – The Criterion Collection #763” comes with a 6-page foldout insert with the essay “Cannon Fodder” by Terrence Rafferty, author of “The Thing Happens: Ten Years of Writing About the Movies”.


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Knowing that the story which inspired “The Bridge” inspired by the real life experiences of Gregor Dorfeister’s teenage life is factual, you can’t help about how unfair war was to young children.

Many who grew up with war and believing in a country’s propaganda, “The Bridge” is a fascinating story about how the children want to fight for their country, to fight for their hometown and think they have all it takes to fight the Westerners.  But in truth, children are still children and to have them fight a war in which they are losing and adults know that the chances of them coming back alive is slim.  It is jarring…but that is how war has taken from parents their dear children at a young age.

The children or young teens featured in “The Bridge” are grade school or high school kids that think being a soldier will lead to a good life.  An they quickly learn the realities of war too quickly and the results are nothing short of tragic.

For filmmaker Bernhard Wicki, the Austrian filmmaker will be known for his anti-war themed films.    Utilizing long tracking shots and storybuilding that gradually grows in tension, action and seeing young boys becoming men too quickly and how war is never fair.

While Bernhard Wicki will be known for his efforts in “The Bridge”, his grand hurrah in cinema would be his collaboration with 20th Century Fox years later for “The Longest Day”.  But one should not gloss over “The Bridge”, we have a wonderful film about a group of children, each with their own interesting personal storylines.

We have a film that tries to build sympathy among these teenagers who have their own set of problems at home, which provides them motivation to become a great soldier and together, believing they can conquer the world including the approaching Americans.

Of course, once they start fighting the war and defending the bridge, the sight of those fighting in war and the betrayal and melancholy that lingers right before them, starts to give them the impression that war is not all that it was mean to be.  And if the older German warriors are fleeing from the Americans, will they stand and fight and prove to be good soldiers or will they realize that war is not all that they thought it would be.

The long tracking shots by Bernhard Wicki were well-done, the building up of characters leading to the finale was very interesting although not at all surprising and albeit predictable.  But its the circumstances of what happens to each of these boys during their stance to defend a bridge that may not make a whole lot of difference considering the Germans were losing the war.

The film’s anti-war message was more of trying to force children to become men and the delusions and grandeur of war that was served via propaganda and giving these boys a thought that war would be wonderful, but instead, they quickly realize that war can lead to death and death is permanent.

As for the Blu-ray release of “The Bridge”, the picture quality is amazing as the film was well-contrast and sharp.  Lossless audio was good with no hiss in the soundtrack (which you can see excerpts in the special features that featured video clips of the film with a lot of hiss) and the overall experience of watching this film was fantastic.  Special features feature a good number of interviews including interviews with writer Gegor Dorfmeister of his real life experience, filmmaker Volker Schlondorff about the film’s impact on German cinema and an older interview with director Bernhard Wicki and an excerpt from a 2007 documentary by Wicki’s widow.

Overall, “The Bridge” is a wonderful post-World War II film by filmmaker Bernhard Wicki with an anti-war message that would win over audiences but also usher a new generation of New German Cinema filmmakers.  Thought provoking and recommended!

 






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