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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • German PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • New interview with writer Gregor Dorfmeister, on whose autobiographical novel the film is based
  • New interview with filmmaker Volker Schlöndorff about the film's impact on German cinema
  • Interview from 1989 with director Bernhard Wicki
  • Excerpt from a 2007 documentary by Elisabeth Wicki-Endriss, Wicki's wife, featuring test reel footage from the shoot

The Bridge

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Bernhard Wicki
1959 | 103 Minutes | Licensor: BetaFilm

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #763
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: June 23, 2015
Review Date: June 30, 2015

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SYNOPSIS

The astonishing The Bridge, by Bernhard Wicki, 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.

Discuss the film and Blu-ray here   


PICTURE

The Criterion Collection presents Bernhard Wicki’s The Bridge on Blu-ray, presenting the film in its original aspect ratio of about 1.33:1 on a dual-layer disc. The new 1080p/24hz high-definition presentation has been sourced from a new 2K scan of the original 35mm negative.

The restoration work has been rather thorough, and throughout most of its running time the film is fairly spotless. Still, there are moments that look to have been beyond repair: tram lines pop up here and there, and dirt and damage (along with fading) can get noticeably heavy on the edges. The film also seems to slightly warp or bubble at around the 21-minute point, causing obvious fluctuations. These problematic moments are very infrequent, though, and a majority of the image is clean and stable.

The transfer itself is very strong, and delivers a very filmic look. Contrast looks accurate, delivering deep blacks and nicely balanced whites along with gray levels that transition cleanly. I didn’t notice any severe digital anomalies, the transfer rendering film grain naturally and cleanly, and delivering a high level of detail and superb depth. Paired together with the restoration Criterion delivers an excellent looking image.

8/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

The film’s lossless German 1.0 PCM mono track sounds pretty good for its age, with clear dialogue and music, though both range and fidelity are limited. Gun shots and some explosions sound a bit hollow and tinny, lacking much of a punch. I blame this more on the film’s age rather than the actual restoration and transfer.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

It only sports a few items but Criterion has put together a rather informative set of supplements about the period in Germany between the end of the war and the film’s release, and the impact this film had.

The best supplement (which, is saying a lot since they’re all rather solid) would be an interview with author Gregor Dorfmeister, who wrote the book the film is based on. Now 86, he discusses in detail the “Hitler Youth,” admitting that today’s youth could probably never understand why his generation “was so stupid back then.” He does explain why, going over how Hitler got them out of a severe economic downturn and how the Hitler Youth appeared to them to be mostly about sports (it became apparent later that it was to actually prep them to be soldiers). He also talks about his experience as a soldier, explaining the incident that inspired the story (he ended up being the only survivor), and the horrifying moment that turned him into a pacifist for the remainder of his life. He then talks about the book and the film, explaining his reasons behind it, and even going over the narrative differences. It’s a fascinating interview, particularly for the first hand account of his experiences during the war.

Criterion then includes a great interview with Bernhard Wicki from 1989. This 14-minute interview features Wicki talking a little about his time in a concentration camp (sounds like he was there because he was Communist), though he doesn’t wish to capitalize on it, and then how he got into filmmaking. He talks about his work over the years, but focuses here on The Bridge, which was a huge sensation despite the fact no one wanted to make it because it dealt with old wounds. The film was both a blessing and a curse he explains, because even though it opened up so many doors for him it became a problem because everyone expected him to make another film like it and he never did. I’m not overly familiar with Wicki’s work so this was a great edition, giving a nice overview of his early life and his film work, while the director also offers his thoughts on The Bridge and its story.

Volker Schlöndorff pops in to provide a new interview. For 10-minutes he talks about the period in which the film came out, and the feelings of anger and disappointment his generation felt towards the previous generation and their part in the war. He explains the impact this film had on his generation as it showed to them why they followed a monster and motivated them. The film itself also had an impact, influencing him and other German New Wave directors like Wim Wenders and Rainer Werner Fassbinder, among others, with what he describes as the film’s “harsh realism.” Schlöndorff’s interview nicely caps off the interviews which contextualize the film to its time of release while also explaining the impact it had on the new wave of German directors coming to the forefront.

Criterion then concludes the disc supplements with a 9-minute excerpt from the documentary Against the Grain: The Film Legend of Bernhard Wicki, made in 2007. Here we get some archival interviews with Wicki, including from the set of the film. The interviews aren’t particularly illuminating since the material is covered elsewhere and there are a significant number of clips from the film for its short running time, but what makes this supplement worthwhile is the behind-the-scenes footage we get, along with audition footage of the young starts and footage from the premiere of the film. I would have maybe liked the full documentary to at least learn more about Wicki’s career but the excerpt still proves to be invaluable.

Criterion then includes a standard insert from film critic Terrence Rafferty. It nicely rounds out the content of the supplements, going over antiwar films of the time, how the film represents a generation, but then gets more in-depth with its comparison to the original novel and its narrative structure, as well as covering Wicki’s career after this film.

I was disappointed initially that the supplements look to be sparse, but they’re all rather invaluable and of excellent quality, explaining the film’s impact, offering insights into the time and place represented in the film, and giving a decent (if not fully formed) overview of Wicki’s career.

8/10

CLOSING

Coming with a high recommendation, Criterion’s release offers some great supplements and a great presentation, despite some issues still present in the source.


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