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The Bridge On The River Kwai

The Bridge On The River Kwai

By Patrick Samuel • April 16th, 2013
Static Mass Rating: 5/5
THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI (MOVIE)
Columbia Pictures

Original release: October 2nd 1957
Running time: 161 minutes

Director: David Lean
Writers: Carl Foreman, Michael Wilson
Producer: Sam Spiegel

Cast: Alec Guinness, Jack Hawkins, Sessue Hayakawa, William Holden, James Donald, Geoffrey Horne

The Bridge On The River Kwai

I first saw The Bridge On The River Kwai as a small boy in the 1980’s, and I remember being confused at the treatment of the British POW’s at the hands of the Japanese. At the time I didn’t understand very much about war. Neither did I understand the building and subsequent demolition of the bridge in question. As I look at it now – with a much older pair of eyes – it’s a fascinating account of the madness of war. Its performances, score and direction make it a film to be remembered and it’s not hard to see why it’s hailed as one of the greatest war movies ever made

Based on the novel by Pierre Boulle, it’s set during the time of World War II, after the surrender of Singapore. It tells of a group of British POWs forced to build a bridge in Burma for the Japanese, under the orders of the camp commandant, Colonel Saito (Sessue Hayakawa). Colonel Nicholson (Alec Guinness) goes through great pains to make it clear to Saito that under the Geneva Conventions his men cannot engage in manual labour as prisoners of war.

Saito is less than pleased by this and slaps him across the face with a copy of the Geneva Conventions. He’s a man who’s not used to being talked back to, especially not by the enemy and he becomes determined to break Nicholson’s will at all costs. This involves, among other things, throwing him into solitary confinement without food or water for days on end.

When the men come to an agreement, it takes a rather surprising turn. The British agree to build the bridge, but they want to do it their way. Shocked by the poor schematics the Japanese have drawn up, they take matters into their own hands to show them even in these circumstances, the British can never be accused of not doing a proper job.
The Bridge On The River Kwai

It’s an admirable decision and given that the men might go mad or attempt escape and be shot, it seems that throwing themselves into work might be the best thing to keep morale up. That’s until United States Navy Commander Shears (William Holden) arrives with explosives to blow all their hard work into the water.

Experiencing this film again after so many years is like an assault on the senses – but in the best possible way. The performances by Alec Guinness and Sessue Hayakawa are incredible to watch, and somewhat overshadow William Holden’s presence. There’s so much pride getting in the way of these men – you just want to shake them to their senses.

The scene where the soldiers march and whistle themselves into the camp is among one of the most memorable sequences in a war film. With their heads held high, they refuse to let their misfortune get the better of them.

SOURCES:

  • Studwell, E. (1996) The National & Religious Song Reader, Haworth Press Inc ¹
“Instead of entering the horrors of the Japanese prison camp in the Southeast Asian jungle like defeated troops, the newly arriveing contingent of Brtish soldiers, led by their tough but dignified commander, proudly strode into their temporary place of confienment whistling the brisk march “Colonel Bogey”.”¹

The Bridge on the River Kwai is one of those films that make you wonder why we fight and what the sense of it is. It’s a remarkable in the way it takes the act of war, looks at it and says “Madness! … Madness!”

Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is an emerging artist with a philosophy degree, working primarily with pastels and graphite pencils, but he also enjoys experimenting with water colours, acrylics, glass and oil paints.

Being on the autistic spectrum with Asperger’s Syndrome, he is stimulated by bold, contrasting colours, intricate details, multiple textures, and varying shades of light and dark. Patrick's work extends to sound and video, and when not drawing or painting, he can be found working on projects he shares online with his followers.

Patrick returned to drawing and painting after a prolonged break in December 2016 as part of his daily art therapy, and is now making the transition to being a full-time artist. As a spokesperson for autism awareness, he also gives talks and presentations on the benefits of creative therapy.

Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and science fiction, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.

Patrick Samuel ¦ Asperger Artist

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