DIRECTOR: Rowland V. Lee
May contain spoilers!
Based on the novel by Thornton Wilder, The Bridge of San Luis Rey follows the collapse of the titular ancient Inca rope bridge which claimed the lives of five travellers as they fell to their deaths into the gorge below.
A monk, Father Juniper, who was passing through passage at the time, takes it upon himself to learn about the five victims to gain some insight in to whether their was a divine reason surrounding their deaths. Was this God’s plan or just a random accident.
This conceit is the basis for the rest of the film, a film which has little, if not nothing to do with the bridge itself. It is little more than a run of the mill Femme Fetale drama, focusing on a love triangle between the Viceroy of Peru and a bloke called Manuel, as well as his twin brother Estiban.
If you are a fan of drama/thrillers/noir of this era then San Luis Rey may be for you, but as for me, I just found it to be dull, contrived and little more than a love story of troubled people. I was distracted early on by the seeming irrelevance to the opening bridge collapse whcih we only hear and do not see, until the best moment of the film as when the story, which has been told in flashback up to that point, finally catches up with the opening calamity and we witness the bridge fall for the first time.
The build up is good and the tension, whcih was missing throughout the film, finally arrives but way too late.
I believe that Wilder’s source novel offered some more philosophical insight into the film’s primary question; Was this divine intervention or just a random act, yet the film offers little explanation, only a few vague references and ambiguous conclusions regarding what happened next.
I was lucky enough to watch this classic movie on 16mm. The picture was obviously aged with wear on tear on the print, but the optical sound was as good as ever, a pristine mono track proving that old ways still carry weight.
This was the saving grace of the entire presentation for me.