Die Brücke, 1959 (The Bridge) by Bernhard Wicki is frequently acknowledged as a momentous anti-war film, though its significance is more nuanced and multifaceted. Its view on war is further ambiguous than the tedious representation would advocate. This was several years after the Federal Republic of Germany reinstituted the army, joined the NATO alliance in 1955, and reinstated the military draft of young men in 1956.
Therefore, this film is not only a testimony about the German past but also the German present. It displays the irrational annihilation of six young Germans at the end of WWII, summoning up a very agonizing recollection of Nazi Germany’s futile effort to turn back the Allied invasion by hurling teenage boys into the fight. However, because West Germany had only recently reinstituted a military draft on young men, the film also implicates a standpoint against West German remilitarization. The conventional West German government comprehended this message as well. Die Brücke was released in the United States on May 1, 1961 to a critical and popular acclaim, offering an obvious reiteration of the war-is-hell theme, but does so with compelling visual imagery and legitimate emotional resonance.
The very uselessness of the boys’ service is crystal clear to viewers right at the beginning of the film. The vivid, blatant detail is enhanced by the black-and-white cinematography, ultimately apprehending the chaos amidst the desperately adhered to codes and conventions, structures that generate a misleading sense of mandate and expectedness. Within an interview conducted by Hans Ulrich Reichert of Tagesschau (Daily News) in 1959, Bernhard Wicki noted that he made the film not as a pro- or anti-war statement but rather as a statement against “Unsinn des Krieges überhaupt” (the nonsense of war as such). The film undoubtedly coerces its spectators to question the inevitability and efficacy of diverse approaches and tactics implemented during wartime and more prominently, the cultural and ideological mindsets and circumstances that make such activities seem necessary and even noble.
Vibrantly elucidating “unsinn” in all its tragic pathos, its very tragedy arises from not only the boys’ naiveté and youth, but also the futility of their military service in the face of forthcoming trouncing. One could say that it is as much a study of the expense of human agony subsequent from imprudent and despairing procedures inflicted upon the innocent as it is a blunt denunciation of the appallingly hubristic decrees administered by authorities in times of war, especially those who, out of fright or refutation, are disinclined to concede and who thus coerce others to make the detriments required to defer the inescapable downfall.
The very war situations illustrated, uncover the exploitations of authority that make such calamity conceivable. For example, not only is it the government and military that instills and exploit a naïve and easily...