Bernhard Wicki’s influential anti-war film, from a German POV, raises unusual levels of discomfort & moral complexity. With collapse imminent near the end of WWII in Europe, a small German town with the frontline approaching, sees its Nazi leaders fleeing and military units in retreat. Those who remain go about their empty routines, startled to see high school boys still excited to get their draft notices. Mustered thru a minimal training, seven of the classmates are assigned to defend a local bridge, a span they were still playing games on last week. But when their commanding officer goes missing, they never receive orders to abandon their post as the Americans approach and the bridge is targeted for defensive destruction by their superiors. Wicki refuses easy character defense, none of the ‘Good Nazi’ traits so typical of the period. In some ways, the boys are the last true-believers, though only one a real fanatic, shining examples of a lifetime’s propaganda, inertia, incurious stupidity & meaningless sacrifice. Wicki isn’t unsympathetic to their tragedy, but he also doesn’t let them off the hook. Scary stuff, technically immaculate, with no way out for youths or spectators. Wicki had a hard-knocks directing career after this, but the German New Wave probably doesn’t happen without him.*
DOUBLE-BILL: *Officially beginning with YOUNG TORLESS/'66 from Volker Schlöndorff who does a graceful intro on this DVD.