Letter/Review From a Friend on The Encyclopedia of Epic Films

Dear Constantine,
I have been reading your book and have been enjoying it thoroughly. It is well-written, thoughtful, and stimulating. I am very pleased with the generous notes you provide. Congratulations on an excellent effort!

I commend you first of all on a very well-informed and developed introduction. You defined the scope of your project very elegantly and in greater depth than most studies. Your description of the classic forms and elements helped me, since I haven’t studied them since freshman year at UC San Diego in 1973. (We read Sophocles). You present a clear context in directing your focus.

Your chapter on The Bridge on the River Kwai was filled with insightful analysis. I enjoyed your critique immensely, because this film is my favorite David Lean motion picture. I like the way this film is structured, with the simultaneous forces converging in an amazing climax–one to build, the other to destroy! As in any Lean film, there are wonderful visual images, e.g., the free flying hawk. The demolition of the bridge may be the most spectacular scene ever filmed (of course, long before the age of digital magic).

I thought your explanation of Boulle’s novel was superb and very helpful in framing the development of the film. For me, this is one of the rare times that a film is far superior to the written work it is based on. I’m not a big fan of Boulle’s work. I recall Saito as a drunken sadist and very one dimensional. Wilson’s efforts molding the Shears character worked on many levels. William Holden was terrific in that role, as were so many other actors.

Major Clipton seemed to serve as David Lean’s alter-ego. He had the last word–“madness” which aptly summed up the spectacle. I find the ambiguity at the conclusion to be most significant. The viewer needs to form an opinion in regard to Nicholson’s final moments, and it is certainly open to interpretation. For me, he does attain clarity, but his falling on the detonator was not intentional. He was already dead!

One item to consider–why did Boulle accept the Oscar for best screenplay? That made no sense, since he hadn’t written a word of the script.

Congratulations on a fine effort, Constantine. I am enjoying your book immensely. I will have to borrow a copy of Passage to India on Netflix. Thank you for sending The Epic Films of David Lean. It is a great read so far.


By Joe Dmohowski