Director: Bernhard Wicki
Four stars out of five
Die Brücke is a renowned German film about a group of young boys called up to military service late in World War Two. There is a brief scene with a (disliked) Party official who overseas the small town, but there is no mention of Hitler or the Third Reich. Roughly half the film is set in the village before the call-up. We see day-to-day life as the American army nears. Milk is delivered, school goes on, food and soap and the like are in short supply, and the boys enjoy sports and courting girls – often at the small bridge in town. Most of the adults think the war is lost and don’t want their children to risk their lives, but the boys are mostly enthusiastic and patriotic and look forward to service. In this first respect, it is the opposite of the adults’ support for war in All Quiet On The Western Front.
They are taken to a boot camp but events require them to be deployed with little training at all. They hop into the back of a truck and soon enough learn that their mission is to defend the bridge in their village. Most of the officers and NCOs see the mission as pointless and intend simply to blow up the bridge, thereby sparing the lads what they know will befall them. Unfortunately, the boys are cut off from the higher-ups and they take on an American armor unit that approaches the bridge.
The battle scene obviously influenced Steven Spielberg, as it in many ways parallels the final scene at the bridge in Saving Private Ryan. The bridges are visually similar: small, arched, made of stone, and with rounded walls on the sides. There are protracted grinding sounds of approaching tanks and the anxious looks on the defenders’ faces. There is an execution at the end of each film followed by the shooters’ saying to others “Verschwindet!” (Beat it!).
The film can be seen in its entirety online.