Choosing between right and wrong is not always as easy a decision as it sounds. Because, what is right cannot determined in absolute terms; the movie ‘The Bridge on the river Kwai’ is a testimony to this observation. The movie was screened recently for all the Spartans under the aegis of the films appreciation club. The show was successful, being a welcome change from the rigorous routine!
The movie is a World War II story of a British soldier’s unit and the days they spend in Japanese captivity – first treated as slaves but eventually winning the respect of a tyrant enemy. The sole responsibility of this turnaround could be credited to the British Commander Colonel Nicholson who adapts dynamic and fitting tactics to deal with his Japanese counterpart Colonel Saito. The movie, like most of the war movies, succeeds in displaying a wide array of emotions that suffering of war brings upon. However, this movie offers a few unique perspectives that are worth noting.
1.) Have a value system and guard it to life.
2.) If you flourish on getting garlanded as a leader, be ready to pay back with gusto when it counts!
3.) Learn to respect yourself before you expect the world to respect you.
Colonel Nicholson during his first few meetings with Colonel Saito tried to win the rightful conduct for his unit and was jeered at repeatedly. Never did he act out of code and bravely confronted the Japanese abuse of the situation. To win dignity and respect from others one should first award them to himself! In one of the scenes during this phase- suffering from acute weakness and dehydration, the Colonel did not let himself be dragged in front of his unit; he indeed marched like a soldier should and won his terms from Colonel Saito!
4.) When you negotiate – negotiate hard!
Upon his release, Colonel Nicholson recognized how he held upper hand over Colonel Saito due to the pending construction of the bridge. Col Nicholson did not mince words when they mattered and smartly procured all the things he desired from Col Saito for his unit and officers. He was deft enough to do this without hurting Japanese ego!
5.) What is ought to be done is ought to be done! There is only one righteous path.
There comes a time in movie when Major Clipton gets perplexed by the honesty with which Col Nicholson gets into the project of building the bridge across the river Kwai for Japanese – the enemies! To which the colonel replies with an astute message of giving the best even as a POW and that he would be proud to be recalled by the future generations as the builder of this bridge. This philosophy is exactly the one preached in Indian scriptures as ‘Dharma’ or ‘Swa-Dharma’ to be precise. Every being has to perform his duties in a righteous way – but this righteous way is itself a function of circumstances. Hence, we as humans shall perform what is right under all conditions.
The ending act of Colonel in the movie, when he blows up the bridge himself, is also a manifestation of realization of ‘Swa-dharma’. Colonel Nicholson was able to think through the right way to act given the sudden change in circumstances. He sided with Japanese when he thought was right and played his part as the British Colonel when he became aware of the orders of higher authorities.
The movie teaches many lessons and I am sure other viewers would be able to append/modify what I tried to summarize. This churning up of thoughts is what we at Film Appreciation Club would attempt to do every time we screen a movie. I am looking forward to your thoughts and views on this remarkable movie.
Films Appreciation Club.