The Bridge on the River Kwai
The Bridge on the River Kwai is a 1957 film about a British colonel who, after settling his differences with a Japanese PoW camp commander, co-operates to oversee his men's construction of a railway bridge for their captors - while oblivious to a plan by the Allies to destroy it.
- Directed by David Lean. Written by Michael Wilson and Carl Foreman, based on Pierre Boulle's novel Le Pont de la Rivière Kwaï.
- I tell you, gentlemen, we have a problem on our hands. Thanks to the Japanese, we now command a rabble. There's no order, no discipline. Our task is to rebuild the battalion. It isn't going to be easy, but fortunately, we have the means at hand, the bridge...We can teach these barbarians a lesson in Western methods and efficiency that will put them to shame. We'll show them what the British soldier is capable of doing...It's going to be a proper bridge. Now here again, I know the men. It's essential that they should take a pride in their job.
- [To Clipton, after Clipton questions the bridge's construction] One day the war will be over. And I hope that the people that use this bridge in years to come will remember how it was built and who built it. Not a gang of slaves, but soldiers, British soldiers, Clipton, even in captivity.
- [To Saito, after the bridge is finished] I've been thinking. Tomorrow it will be 28 years to the day that I've been in the service. 28 years in peace and war. I don't suppose I've been at home more than ten months in all that time. Still, it's been a good life. I love India. I wouldn't have had it any other way. But there are times when suddenly you realise you're nearer the end than the beginning. And you wonder, you ask yourself, what the sum total of your life represents, what difference your being there at any time made to anything, or if it made any difference at all really. Particularly in comparison with other men's careers. I don't know whether that kind of thinking is very healthy, but I must admit I've had some thoughts on those lines from time to time. But tonight—tonight!
- [on feeling down] It is quite understandable. It's a very natural reaction. But one day, in a week, a month, a year, on that day when God willing, we all return to our homes again, you're going to feel very proud of what you have achieved here in the face of great adversity. What you have done, should be, and I think will be, an example to all our countrymen, soldier and civilian alike. You have survived with honour, that and more: here in the wilderness, you have turned defeat into victory. I congratulate you. Well done.
- What have I done?
- Here lies Corporal Herbert Thompson, serial number 01234567, valiant member of the King's own, and Queen's own, or something, who died of beriberi in the year of our Lord 1943. For the greater glory of...[pause] what did he die for?...I don't mock the grave or the man. May he rest in peace. He found little enough of it while he was alive.
- Mostly Aussies, some Lime, some British, Indians, Burmese, Siamese...They died, of malaria, dysentery, beriberi, gangrene. Other causes of death: famine, overwork, bullet wounds, snake bites, Saito. And then there were some who just got tired of living.
- [watching the British prisoners walk into the camp] We're going to be a busy pair of gravediggers.
- [speaking to Nicholson for the first time] I am Colonel Saito. [to the British prisoners] In the name of His Imperial Majesty, I welcome you. I am the commanding officer of this camp, which is Camp 16 along the great railroad which will soon connect Bangkok with Rangoon. You British prisoners have been chosen to build a bridge across the River Kwai. It will be pleasant work, requiring skill, and officers will work as well as men. The Japanese Army cannot have idle mouths to feed. If you work hard, you will be treated well, but if you do not work hard, you will be punished! A word to you about escape: there is no barbed wire, no stockade, no watch tower. They are not necessary. We are an island in the jungle. Escape is impossible. You would die. Today you rest. Tomorrow you will begin. Let me remind you of General Yamashita's motto: be happy in your work. Dismissed!
- Attention, English prisoners! Notice I do not say "English soldiers". From the moment you surrendered, you ceased to be soldiers. You will finish the bridge by the twelfth day of May. You will work under the direction of a Japanese engineer, Lieutenant Miura. Time is short. All men will work. Your officers will work beside you. This is only just. For it is they who betray you by surrender. Your shame is their dishonour. It is they who told you: 'Better to live like a coolie than die like a hero.' It is they who brought you here, not I. Therefore, they will join you in useful labour. That is all.
- [after Nicholson objects to the above speech by trying to point out what the Geneva Convention specifies] You speak to me of code? What code?! The Coward's Code! What do you know of the Soldier's Code? Of Bushido? Nothing! You are unworthy of command!
- I hate the British! You are defeated, but you have no shame. You are stubborn, but have no pride. You endure, but you have no courage. I hate the British!
- The fact is, what we're doing could be construed as, forgive me sir, collaboration with the enemy. Perhaps even as treasonable activity...Must we work so well? Must we build them a better bridge than they could have built for themselves?
- Is this your soldier's code? Murdering unarmed men?
- Saito: Do you know what will happen to me if the bridge is not built on time?
- Nicholson: I haven't the foggiest.
- Saito: I'll have to kill myself. What would you do if you were me?
- Nicholson: I suppose if I were you, I'd have to kill myself. Cheers! [He drinks the glass of Scotch]
- Warden: You'll go on without me. That's an order. You're in command now, Shears.
- Shears: I won't obey that order. You make me sick with your heroics. There's a stench of death about ya. You carry it in your pack like the plague. Explosives and L pills. They go well together, don't they? And with you, it's just one thing or the other: 'Destroy a bridge or destroy yourself.' This is just a game, this war. You and that Colonel Nicholson, you're two of a kind. Crazy with courage. For what? How to die like a gentleman. How to die by the rules when the only important thing is how to live like a human being. I'm not going to leave you here to die, Warden, because I don't care about your bridge and I don't care about your rules. If we go on, we go on together.