23 October 2010

The Bridge – a World War 2 Ghost Story

Writer and director Marlon Torres was told a ghost story when he was a child and it haunted him for weeks. It was the story of two siblings on a bridge and it caused any number of sleepless nights. Last year he finally had the chance to create an adaptation of that story and make it in to a short film. I have just sat through its twenty four minutes and it is remarkable.

Torres has created a challenging film here – setting it in the midst of Germany at the end of the Second World War must have had its own demands considering that this was movie making without a Spielbergian budget. Also, he chose deliberately not to spoon feed the audience (which we are so used to as to make it almost pavlovian) and the film leaves us with as many questions as it does answers. However, Torres has successfully managed to transfer the feelings of being spooked out as a child to a new audience.

The story is a simple one – three soldiers go in search of a missing letter which will allow one of their number to get news about his pregnant sweetheart. What happens next is very much down to how you interpret it for yourself and I won’t sway your own understanding of the movie by saying what I think here. Suffice it to say that this wouldn’t be the week’s featured short film on Kuriositas if I didn’t rate it extremely highly.

It is true that budgetary constraints do show through occasionally – the movie doesn’t have any Saving Private Ryan key note scenes. Yet neither should it and where the action necessitates explosions and CGI they are done with aplomb. Plus it is obvious that Torres and his cohorts have really done their reading up on the language of the era and there isn’t an anachronism in site when it comes to wardrobe.  At a total cost of $7000, this is outstanding work.

The casting is excellent. Pablo Soriana is spot on as the main protagonist, struggling with reality and with a plaintive look that reminds me of a young De Niro. He has just the right sort of everyman handsomeness to pull of the role is understated in a role that other actors might have overcooked. James Connelly and Mitchell Walker lend fine support as the soldiers who accompany Henry Sullivan on his odyssey.

Particularly captivating, however, was Samantha Johnson in the role of Leah Thompson – quite bewitching with a forties allure and just the right sort of expression to make you wonder whether she was phantom or real.

Considering the whole movie was shot around the San Francisco area it convinces as 1945 Germany finding the right locations must have been difficult. I am not a bridge expert but it didn’t look out of place. The music too was effective – hats off to Justin R Durban for that and also to Producer Amy Ng. This is a wonderful team effort which looks much more expensive than I suspect it was.

It all comes together to make a highly enjoyable, enigmatic, piece of movie making.  Thanks to everyone involved for giving me a great Saturday morning treat, particularly writer and director Marlon Torres.