Latter-day Saint Video Vault: “The Bridge” Teaches of Sacrifice

the-bridge-film-lds
Jared Jones

Jared Jones

A dad, a boy, a bridge and a train. What could go wrong?

Latter-day Saint Video Vault celebrates decades of uplifting, funny, weird, and sometimes cringe-worthy Mormon-related videos, most of which are now found on YouTube. Join Jared Jones every other Friday as he breaks down one of these classics.

Welcome back to the vault. I hope you didn’t miss us too much during our post-Warrior hiatus. This week—as promised—something shorter! We take a look at a 10-minute film from 1978. The Bridge.

The Bridge was not produced by the church itself. It was one of several films produced by T.C. Christensen’s Visual Transit Authority. The VTA often collaborated with BYU and the church itself on films. It also independently produced other pieces in the genre it called “moralistic” films. The Bridge is one of those films

The film opens with father and son walking through the country side. They walk hand in hand along the pond, aside a river and see a swing bridge. They examine nature and the father carries his son on his shoulders as they make their way back home.

Cut to the kitchen. Mom is making breakfast and wondering why they were up so early. They wanted to get out and explore. Dad talks with son David about the garden he will get to plant today after his chores. Mom, who is pregnant, reminds Dad that it’s almost time for the baby, and she will send David to the bridge, where dad also works, if he is needed.

They get after their chores on the farm and end up walking through the woods. They pause for a drink of water from the pond and we hear a simple conversation.

“Do you love your dad?” the father says.

“Yes,” says David

“Does your Dad love you?”

“Yes.”

They lay down by the pond to rest. David pauses for a minute but then has other ideas. He reaches down into the pond and splashes water into his dad’s face.

“Let’s go plant the garden!” David implores.

They plant the garden and as they plant seeds the father looks up at the sun and says it’s about time. He tells David he has to go so the people on the train can get across safely. We see the large passenger train full of people going about their travels—oblivious to the world that passes them by.

Dad takes a boat up the river to the base of the bridge and climbs up as we see David at home continuing to plant.  Dad goes about his business preparing the swing bridge to move back into place.

We see many angles of the bridge slowly swinging into place. SO MANY angles. I think it would have been a 5-minute film, but even a bridge has to work its angles. Finally, it closes the gap, but something is wrong. One set of the rails has not locked into place and the bridge continues to sway.

Back at the house Mom sends David to go get his father. It’s time for the baby.

At the bridge, Dad sprints down the trestle to insert a pry bar so he could manually hold the bridge closed. He hears the train and holds down the rails to ensure the train passes safely. As he waits for the train he hears David! He looks up to see David running down the bridge towards him. The train is seconds away. Dad jumps up on the bridge to try to tell David to get away but nothing can be done. He sadly goes back down to the side and lowers the rails. The train passes by—the passengers unaware of David—leaving an empty bridge behind. Dad lets go of the lever and cries. Fade to black.

The film is an allegory. The Father sacrifices his Son for the good of the many who proceed unaware of the sacrifice of both Father and Son.  The success of the allegory lies in how much you analyze it. On the surface it works, but a you look at any symbol closely there is potential for it to run off the rails. Too soon?

When my wife saw I was reviewing The Bridge she just said “You’ve never seen it? It’s just SO SAD!”

And it is sad—and a bit heavy handed.  For my money I prefer the sweet simplicity of Greater Love. Until next time.

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