Hollywood Deceptions

Most people have watched the 1957 Hollywood movie ”The Bridge on the River Kwai” and shivered with disgust and excitement.  Some have seen pictures of the famous bridge as it looks today.  What most people do not know is that during the war years

a) there was never any water in the river;
b) the bridge was never blown up, neither then or at any later date;
c) nor was there any English officer stupid enough to cooperate with the Japanese
    occupying power - if so he would have been lynched by his own men.

All of the above if we are to believe a Danish soldier who was a POW for three and a half years in the very camp that built the bridge in the 1940s.
   The Dane died in 1980, but before his final breath he recorded his story on 20 cassette deck tapes which were then stowed away in the attic - apparently he didn’t intend to publish his story, just ”keep” it while he was still able to remember the details.
   A couple of years ago his daughter found the tapes, and she’s made a transcript of the story and put it together in a book.  The book is very moving and told in a quiet voice.

Just before Japan captured Singapore in 1942, the Danish soldier managed to ship his wife and family away to the US where his wife later re-married.  After his liberation from the camp, the Danish soldier eventually returned to Denmark to start a new family and a new life.  His degrading experiences as a POW, however, sat heavily on him, and he never regained his physical health nor his mental stability.

"Planet of the Apes" (with sequels) is another great Hollywood classic, but I don't suspect anyone to believe that the plot will ever become reality - well, it just might, but it's not a fact.
   However, in this context the interesting thing about the movie "Planet of the Apes" is that it was made from a book by the French novelist Pierre Boulle (1913-94) who also wrote the book "The Bridge Over The River Kwai”, later to be turned into a filmscript - in other words pure fiction.  Alas - it was such a good story.

Although we were not told by Hollywood that the story of the bridge on the River Kwai is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, I think it is fair to assume that a great many movie goers considered the movie to be actual fact, and the movie may thus have spurred not only thoughts of acts of heroism, but also a contempt for foreign cultures which are termed "barbaric" (Latin for "outside our boundaries").
   Oh, Hollywood - what stories you’ve made us believe over the years.

It is indeed true what they say in ”Wag the Dog”:

Once people have seen it on the screen, be it TV or a movie, it is a fact.

October 2000
Erik Moldrup