Friday, December 09, 2005

More on Movies

Is it just us, or is the ending of The Bridge on the River Kwai incredibly, incredibly frustrating? Two and half hours spent building up personalities, character issues and moral conflicts until both kings are close to check and then at the end they just tip over the table and knock the chess pieces on the ground.

I'm sure it was deliberate. I just disagree strenuously with the worldview reflected. Sometimes two goods may come into conflict, but they still are good. It is worthwhile to use building a bridge to maintain your sanity and show up the enemy; it is worthwhile to blow up a bridge and destroy the enemy. With only very minor changes, the movie could have ended several ways that would have created moral resolution. Instead it ended in moral anarchy.

Watching movies in snatches may sound like it detracts from the movie watching experience, but we are getting to rather like it. It's more like reading a book. One has time to ponder, speculate, and analyze. And watching movies sitting bolt upright in office chairs insures that I never fall asleep during them anymore.


the Joneses said...

No, it's not just you. I watched the movie in high school, hated the ending, and swore I'd never watch it again. So far, I've kept my vow.

Jeremy said...

I have to disagree with your take on this exceptional movie.

First off, was working on the bridge good? Focusing the men's minds on something productive (even though it was for the enemy) helped keep them from "cracking" no doubt. But unfortunately Alec Guinness's character became obsessed with the "project" and forgot that they were in effect "aiding" the enemy.

Then, in his last breath, he realizes what he has done; How he has allowed his obsession to override his patriotism and his loyalties and in a final act of awareness does the right thing.

I think it's a wonderful movie and helped teach me that we must keep our focus (regardless of our what actions we are being forced into) on what is really important. In this case, patriotism.

Rose said...

I too felt disappointed when I first saw this movie. It felt like such an anticlimax of what could have been such heroism on both sides. The music is grand, though.

The Duke said...

I agreed with the reasoning of Guinness' character until the very end, when he tried to lead the Japanese commander to find the detonator. There was no escape or physical recourse for the prisoners, nor would the Japanese observe rules. Thus, the only way to maintain pride and beat them in the camp was through the mind, and Col. Nicholson did this very well. His only flaw was in forgetting why he did it: to defeat the Japanese. He became enthralled with the tree at the expense of the forest.

The biggest problem I have with it is simply that no one wins. Maj. Warden and Maj. Clipton are the only major (pardon the pun) characters left standing, and the latter didn't really do anything. Warden has just succeeded in killing his own comrade because he's worried about him being captured alive. (Hint: if you can shoot him and his captors before the capture, why not wait to shoot until after the capture.) Also, Nicholson did not do anything with his last breath except make a realization. The portrayal indicates he kicks in and accidentally lands on the detonator.

I'll take 'The Great Escape' any day. And it has better music.

Jeremy said...

The Great Escape is an all-time, forever-classic. One of the best. No argument there!

See, I never saw Nicholson's last act as accidental, but rather as redemptive. I guess that shows how many can see the same movie, and attribute different motives to the same chunk of celluloid.

The Duke said...

Good point. And something a director should be keenly aware of.