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CrimsonLine

Bridge on the River Kwai

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I suppose there are spoilers here if you haven't seen this film...

At the end, the "Professor" turns to the women bearers and says defensively, "I had to do it. They might have been captured!" Neither my wife nor I could figure out what he had done. So, what did he do?

And, given the theme of "madness" that runs through the film...

What was Shears' brand of madness?

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I suppose there are spoilers here if you haven't seen this film...

At the end, the "Professor" turns to the women bearers and says defensively, "I had to do it. They might have been captured!" Neither my wife nor I could figure out what he had done. So, what did he do?

And, given the theme of "madness" that runs through the film...

What was Shears' brand of madness?

That is an interesting scene with Warden. When he stands up, the women all back away from him. I combine this with an earlier shot of the other native born man on their team, who was down by the river. He is clearly seen pointing and shooting away from his team. However, Warden had fired his mortars dangerously close to his own men, putting them in harm's way. The women see this and obviously think it was a poor choice, so Warden tries to explain - but how do you explain that you were essentially firing on your own men? And of course, he explains that he did it because no one could be taken alive - yet another rule to follow, no matter who it kills.

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I suppose there are spoilers here if you haven't seen this film...

At the end, the "Professor" turns to the women bearers and says defensively, "I had to do it. They might have been captured!" Neither my wife nor I could figure out what he had done. So, what did he do?

And, given the theme of "madness" that runs through the film...

What was Shears' brand of madness?

SPOILERS within...

I came across this thread while adding The Bridge on the River Kwai to my film journal today.

I've seen this film many times, and have also asked the same question about the "Professor's" actions and his defense of them. It occurred to me on this mornings viewing that what the Professor may have been trying to accomplish was a mercy killing of both Joyce and Shears. From the Professors vantage point, which is several hundred yards from where Shears and Joyce have gone down, the Professor has no way of knowing that the two have been killed. I believe that the final mortar is intended to save them from both possible torture, and internment back in the POW camps. The Professor was a former POW himself, and knew first hand what kind of treatment could be expected. He doesn't lob the mortar directly at Joyce and Shears, but near enough that the concussive force of the blast will do them in. I think this is played out by the final moments of Col. Nicholson's life.

As to Shears "madness": Roger Ebert writes that he believes it's when Shears accepts the mission to return to the jungle. I'm not too sure of that. His return is more a case of blackmail. Shears is basically forced to return, or instead face a courts martial charge for impersonating an officer. I think Shears moment of madness is when he plunges into the river to try and take down Nicholson. This goes against everything that Shears has been complaining about on the entire journey back to the bridge, he's had enough of war and wants to stay as far away from the action as possible.

Edited by Baal_T'shuvah

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FWIW, I tweeted the following after seeing this film on the big screen last month:

knew KWAI was a solid precursor to LAWRENCE OF ARABIA but now I'm thinking it has some interesting affinities w/
too.
and personalities very different but still: a proud man is forced to relinquish control to a lesser who is better at job than he.

Oh, and at Facebook, I wrote:

The Bridge on the River Kwai is an awesome movie in many respects, but, given how it makes such a big deal of the need to place the plastic explosives at the *base* of the bridge -- several feet underwater, where the Japanese soldiers cannot see it -- should it bother me that we can see charges being detonated on the railway track way up high when the bridge is finally blown up?

CrimsonLine wrote:

: At the end, the "Professor" turns to the women bearers and says defensively, "I had to do it. They might have been captured!" Neither my wife nor I could figure out what he had done. So, what did he do?

He killed his fellow commando team members (or at least tried to; they were quite probably already dead before he had even fired the mortar). The film makes the point on more than one occasion that members of the commando team are expected to kill THEMSELVES rather than let themselves get caught. So it only makes sense that the "Professor" would kill them, too.

The irony is, the "Professor" wouldn't even be ALIVE to kill them if one of them (i.e. Shears) hadn't already saved his life (and against the "Professor's" orders).

: What was Shears' brand of madness?

I didn't think he had any, actually.

Baal_T'shuvah wrote:

: I think this is played out by the final moments of Col. Nicholson's life.

BTW, I have to say, seeing this film on the big screen for the first time, I was struck by the wound on Nicholson's head in a way that I had never been before.

: As to Shears "madness": Roger Ebert writes that he believes it's when Shears accepts the mission to return to the jungle. I'm not too sure of that. His return is more a case of blackmail.

Absolutely. And brilliantly executed blackmail, on the part of the "Professor" (as per the comments I linked to earlier in this thread).

: I think Shears moment of madness is when he plunges into the river to try and take down Nicholson. This goes against everything that Shears has been complaining about on the entire journey back to the bridge, he's had enough of war and wants to stay as far away from the action as possible.

Hmmm. That almost makes it sound like taking down Nicholson was an end in itself. It seemed to me that Shears was primarily trying to finish the mission that Nicholson had interrupted.

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