Film Review: The Bridge on the River Kwai
Someone - I forget who - said The Bridge on the River Kwai is one of the best films ever made. I concur, although I can't exactly say why. It's very well put together, has some beautiful cinematography, and has fantastic depth of character and story. It's also extremely long, so make sure you have an afternoon free when you watch it.
My initial reason for getting it out on DVD was that I'd never seen it before, and having recently had a Star Wars-fest, I wanted to see what Alec Guinness was like when he wasn't playing Obi-Wan Kenobi. (He was great in Bridge as Col. Nicholson, by the way)
Thoughts that occurred to me while watching:
- The need for meaning. Towards the end, Nicholson tells the Japanese commander Saito that he's often wondered what sort of mark his life would leave. Would anyone notice he'd ever lived? The bridge, for him, was a sort of answer to that - even though it was an enemy bridge, and as a British officer he had a duty to prevent it being completed. Sometimes our search for meaning takes us to strange places.
- The difference between 1957's perspective (when Bridge was filmed) and the early 21st century (when, for example To End All Wars was filmed, a true story with many similarities to Bridge). Nicholson's search for meaning is tacitly frowned on in 1957, while in To End All Wars we see there is no other choice but to find some meaning - or utter madness.
- Realism. In 1957 it was considered okay to portray the Japanese as bumbling, incompetent fools. But the reality was, this was an ancient culture that had combined with modern technology to become extremely powerful. And the psychological warfare used would have never let Nicholson or others have their clever lines.
- The ending. One of the best endings in film. Utter chaos, and you'll be forever wondering - did he mean to fall on the plunger, or was it just accidental? What did he mean when he said, "What have I done?"