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Bridge on the River Kwai -- Scene That Makes No Sense?


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ffb1222eb1c06b9b00081e75f9072a98--sterli

MANDRAKE
Ah, oh no, I ah... I don't think they
wanted me to talk, really. I don't think
they wanted me to say anything. It was
just their way of having... a bit of fun,
the swines. Strange thing is they make
such bloody good cameras.
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56 minutes ago, Bogie56 said:

ffb1222eb1c06b9b00081e75f9072a98--sterli


MANDRAKE
Ah, oh no, I ah... I don't think they

wanted me to talk, really. I don't think
they wanted me to say anything. It was
just their way of having... a bit of fun,
the swines. Strange thing is they make
such bloody good cameras.

...and cars...and motorcycles.

(...wait, this was in 1964 wasn't it, and before they'd become known for that too...and so, never mind then)

;)

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Old Film Lover, I had a short  Kwai thread a while back that you might find interesting ...

I was trying to post the link and this is what came up.  Hopefully you can find it without too much trouble.

 

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  • 7 months later...

I know this is an old thread, but I was just watching the end of this movie today. I have always thought the ending was just messed up, re: the final dialog. I have seen several good explanations for the nonsense of "I had to do it". And I can see one of those explanations might explain it, but not for me. It simply makes no sense at all. First of all, all of the young ladies that dew back in horror from him after the bridge was blown knew exactly why they were there, and I'm sure they all hated the Japanese soldiers. That is why they were assisting and guiding these British soldiers.

2nd, the very same girl who was among the women who drew back from the Jack h\Hawkins character had just been, a couple of minutes before, helping him with the morter by dropping the shells down into it.

3rd, were their lovers possibly still alive? Maybe, but no way they could see one way or another at that distance, all they could see is that they were down after apparently being shot.

4th, they came there to stop the progress of enemies who had been killing their relatives. If  the Hawkins character did not stop the Guinness character, he was going to disable the detonator. Which would mean that the 3 men just shot by the Japanese (including their 2 lovers), would have died for nothing(or worse, if surviving for a while, tortured by the Japanese), and the entire mission would have been for nothing. And accomplished nothing against their occupiers and murderers and rapists. 

5th, in the unlikely event that their people who were now obviousy shot were still alive, if Hawkens did not stop the Japanese with the mortar, then the Japanese would almost cetainly finish them off withing the next few minutes, and then disable the detonator.

So, all considered, it seems highly unlikely that all of those women would draw back in horror just because Hawkens fired his mortar at the Japanese and Guinness, even if some of their own people possibly(a real long shot) still alive down in the midst of the Japanese. So, for me, whether or not Hawkens was willing to kill his own men(though as far as he and the gals knew, already dead), these women knew the score and in fact were helping load the mortar, so I don't believe that is why they drew back from him. But if not because they were upset at his killing there men right along with the Japanese, then why? I have no clue, and the ending makes no sense. 

But, I have a new question. I have also never understood the doctor, and his "madness" response. Had he not witnessed the brutality of the Japanese, including the ones who held him captive now? The ones who had caused the death, and even often times murdered, his fellow prisoners?  Was he not up on the hill rather than down with Guinness for the ceremonoes, because he suspected they might actually be aiding the enemy and even being traitors? If so, shouldn't he have been glad that some of his people had managed to destroy this bridge which would only aid the enemy who were killing so many all around the world? He might not have known about the rape of Nanking, but he had witnessed much brutality against his fellow soldiers and the local people. In fact, with so many Japanese now killed and the rest occupied with the bridge and survivors on the rain, wouldn't that have been a great time for him to escape? Even Guinness came to his senses at the end(what have I done?) and tried(and succeeded) to fall on the plunger.  Why was he having a fit observing the defeat of his enemy?

So, as much as I love this movie- I first saw it in high school in the late 60s- the ending has never made any sense whatsoever to me.

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On 1/26/2021 at 4:00 PM, BillyBob72 said:

I know this is an old thread, but I was just watching the end of this movie today. I have always thought the ending was just messed up, re: the final dialog. I have seen several good explanations for the nonsense of "I had to do it". And I can see one of those explanations might explain it, but not for me. It simply makes no sense at all. First of all, all of the young ladies that dew back in horror from him after the bridge was blown knew exactly why they were there, and I'm sure they all hated the Japanese soldiers. That is why they were assisting and guiding these British soldiers.

2nd, the very same girl who was among the women who drew back from the Jack h\Hawkins character had just been, a couple of minutes before, helping him with the morter by dropping the shells down into it.

3rd, were their lovers possibly still alive? Maybe, but no way they could see one way or another at that distance, all they could see is that they were down after apparently being shot.

4th, they came there to stop the progress of enemies who had been killing their relatives. If  the Hawkins character did not stop the Guinness character, he was going to disable the detonator. Which would mean that the 3 men just shot by the Japanese (including their 2 lovers), would have died for nothing(or worse, if surviving for a while, tortured by the Japanese), and the entire mission would have been for nothing. And accomplished nothing against their occupiers and murderers and rapists. 

5th, in the unlikely event that their people who were now obviousy shot were still alive, if Hawkens did not stop the Japanese with the mortar, then the Japanese would almost cetainly finish them off withing the next few minutes, and then disable the detonator.

So, all considered, it seems highly unlikely that all of those women would draw back in horror just because Hawkens fired his mortar at the Japanese and Guinness, even if some of their own people possibly(a real long shot) still alive down in the midst of the Japanese. So, for me, whether or not Hawkens was willing to kill his own men(though as far as he and the gals knew, already dead), these women knew the score and in fact were helping load the mortar, so I don't believe that is why they drew back from him. But if not because they were upset at his killing there men right along with the Japanese, then why? I have no clue, and the ending makes no sense. 

But, I have a new question. I have also never understood the doctor, and his "madness" response. Had he not witnessed the brutality of the Japanese, including the ones who held him captive now? The ones who had caused the death, and even often times murdered, his fellow prisoners?  Was he not up on the hill rather than down with Guinness for the ceremonoes, because he suspected they might actually be aiding the enemy and even being traitors? If so, shouldn't he have been glad that some of his people had managed to destroy this bridge which would only aid the enemy who were killing so many all around the world? He might not have known about the rape of Nanking, but he had witnessed much brutality against his fellow soldiers and the local people. In fact, with so many Japanese now killed and the rest occupied with the bridge and survivors on the rain, wouldn't that have been a great time for him to escape? Even Guinness came to his senses at the end(what have I done?) and tried(and succeeded) to fall on the plunger.  Why was he having a fit observing the defeat of his enemy?

So, as much as I love this movie- I first saw it in high school in the late 60s- the ending has never made any sense whatsoever to me.

Your ongoing quandary over the ending of the movie has prompted me to see it again (not a hardship) and offer some comments that perhaps can help. 

The movie has an anti-war theme, something you would expect ten years later, and certainly not about the good war, the justified war.  But movies are about the time they are made, not the time they are set in, and it's possible to see this as the harbinger of the counter-culture movement that was looming.  Howl, that clarion of anti-establishment feeling was published a year earlier.

It presents the anti-war theme through an examination of three principle characters, Colonel Nicholson, Colonel Saito, and Major Warden, their monomaniac obsession with their goals, and how this brings tragedy and destruction to themselves and the people around them.  Shears acts not really in the role of a Greek chorus, but as a foil, a voice of common sense, reality.  Though at the end, even he gets infected by the insanity around him, leading him break from his cover and charge across the river to detonate the explosives, and to his death.  This is a point that could be debated as a flaw.  He's such a practical, self-interested fellow all the way through.  Maybe he was trying to help save Joyce's life.  But anyway he probably had to die to increase the nihilism of the ending.

The village women I am sure knew the objective of the party.  But in the strategizing that they did before the attack, Major Warden said he would direct the mortar at the bridge to act as a diversion for the Japanese soldiers.  The only way the women would know of that would be if Kai had told them.  This would be true even for the woman helping Warden, as he changed his aim when he saw what was going on with Shears and Joyce.  What is improbable is not that the woman were not aware of Warden aiming at Shears and Joyce, but that he was able to change targets and hit it so accurately with no aiming or ranging equipment.

At a number of times up to when Warden lobs a mortar at Shears and Joyce, specific points are made that it would be better to die than to be captured.  Remember Shears being given a suicide pill.  And that was the motivation for Warden's mortaring the two.  Whether they would prefer to be captured, or whether they were already dead was not his consideration.  He decided for them that they would be better off dead.  And when the women react to him with horror, he tells them just that.  He had to do it to prevent them from being captured alive.  Of course, as they don't understand English, the explanation is futile, more him trying to convince himself.  More madness.

The doctor's comments about madness don't refer exclusively to the events in the movie.  Remember the movie is not a comment on World War II, but using it as a pretext to propose views on warfare and what it does to people psychically and physically.  I'm sure both Pierre Boulle's book and David Lean's movie were influenced by the disenchantment, if not disillusionment resulting from the Korean War, among other things.  With that view, he is speaking the attitude of Lean and the screenwriters.  You have Saito's determination to build the bridge pushing him to brutality and the point of mass-murder.  His adherence to Bushido, so absurd in the isolated camp in the middle of a green ocean.  You have Nicholson's warped sense of duty, and frustrated egotism leading him to rationalize completing a project that will aid in Japan's prosecution of the war, just so he could have something he could look on with a sense of accomplishment in an undistinguished career--an opportunity he had to go to the Japanese, his enemy, for because his own country, his people denied it!  And you have Warden, so taken with the abstract, so divorced from the actuality of fighting and death, that the operation becomes, as Shears says, more a game, than a campaign of life and death, to the point he's willing to kill the members of his own party.  Yes, it's madness.  One may be tempted to admire the dedication the three men pursue their goals with.  But as it is an expression of their madness, it merely shocks and horrifies.

The images of vultures the movie begins and ends with are appropriate.  Graceful, detached, airily soaring over carrion. 

 

 

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