June 03, 2016

Movie Club—The Bridge on the River Kwai

This month the Movie Club will be screening The Bridge on the River Kwai, directed by David Lean and starring Alec Guinness, Sessue Hayakawa and William Holden.

The story is set in a Japanese P.O.W. camp where a new band of British troops, led by Colonel Nicholson (Guinness), are instructed to help build a bridge as part of the Burma Railway that aids the Japanese war effort. Saito (Hayakawa), the commandant, instructs that all prisoners, officers and enlisted, will perform the manual labour in the construction of the bridge. As he says, "for it is they [the officers] who betray you [the enlisted] by surrender. Your shame is their dishonour." This aggrieves Nicholson, who maintains that the Geneva Convention prohibits officers from being forced to undertake such duties. This leads Saito and Nicholson to numerous confrontations, with Saito questioning Nicholson's honour and Nicholson attempting to maintain his pride and the order of his troops.

The film went on to win numerous awards, including the Oscar for Best Picture, Best Director for Lean, Best Actor for Guinness, Best Music, Best Adapated Screenplay (from a novel by Pierre Boulle who also wrote The Planet of the Apes), Best Film Editing and Best Cinematography. (Hayakawa was nominated for, but did not win, Best Supporting Actor) The film has subsequently gone on to have a following with many elements becoming part of popular culture, most notably the Colonel Bogey March. With its discussion of honour, pride, cowardice and madness, the film has become a unique war film, one "that focuses not on larger rights and wrongs but on individuals", and where by the end "we are less interested in who wins than in how individual characters will behave.” (Ebert, [April 18, 1999], The Bridge on the River Kwai [Review]).

The film will be screened on Wednesday 8 June at 6pm at Narellan Library, Corner of Queen and Elyard Street, Narellan. Tea, coffee, and biscuits provided, but BYO snacks are more than welcome. Stay after the screening to share your thoughts about the film and join in a discussion about the many classic moments and intriguing insights the film explores.

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