Berlin Wall fragment

“CHANGE YOUR LIFE”. Part of the Berlin Wall on the grounds of the Imperial War Museum, London, 2012.

Bridge of Spies and my Zweibrücken (Two Bridges)

I step into the cold December night and wander towards the theatre. Tonight was to have been a blog about prisoners of war of the 16th Battalion CEF, but as I watch the blog become scrambled across the page I realize tonight is not the time to sort out the fineries of my document. There is a film to see and one I have been waiting to catch since its release – October 4, 2015.

Lately I have watched a number of films on the big and bigger screens, Spy, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Mission: Impossible Rogue – Nation, Spectre, Mr. Holmes, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. And there have been more…Mr. Turner, Beware of Mr. Baker,  Searching for Sugar Man, Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey.

As I quicken my pace through the darkness and watch my shadow grow beneath the lamps, I wonder what this evening’s feature will bring. Tonight is the story of other prisoners – Colonel Abel and Lieutenant Powers, the cold and the shadows. As I watch the opening credits I smile as I read, Based on True Events. Set during the Cold War of the late 1950s and early 1960s Bridge of Spies is somewhat set in my era, in a country that I lived in for three years. It makes me think of those years when the family Ferguson were residents of 3rd Fighter Wing (RCAF), Zweibrücken, Germany.

As the film unfolds its characters and story I am enthralled by the performance of Mark Rylance, as Rudolf Abel, and this evening as I read through Rylance’s profile I wonder why I have not encountered this actor before. His resume is wonderful, with a wide range of recognition and honours for his performances on the big screen, television and in theatre. However, it is not just the performance of Mr. Rylance, Tom Hanks and the cast of Bridge of Spies, it is the film’s staging and props, the cold and shadows and familiar imagery of my time in Germany that makes me recall my two bridges. Walking to school, Kindergarten, Grade 1, inoculations, Measles, the Beatles, Canadian Armed Forces Radio, the Rosengarten, Cameras, John F. Kennedy, James Bond, Bunkers, Tadpoles, Summer Recreation, Atomic Bomb Drills, Jets, filling jerricans, Canadian licence plates, the Army Post Office, softball, hockey, our German landlord, my teachers, students and Mom and Dad.

Enjoying these recollections of my youth I start to ponder the much larger political events of the same time. As I watch Tom Hanks become witness to individuals attempting to clear the Berlin Wall, I wonder what events occurred during my time of Cold War occupation. I find myself looking for casualty figures about my time in West Germany where some ways away a wall in Berlin, the great hurdle and barrier between West and East, led to the death of at least 90 individuals during the 1960s. I think about Spandau Prison (West Germany, 1947-1987) where the Four-Power Authorities (USA, the United Kingdom, the USSR, France) continued to meet throughout the Cold War…the Berlin Wall (1961- 1989) and how the Iron Curtain finally faded in 1991.

Bridge of Spies did not disappoint and I am refreshed by the creativity of the team. As I leave the theatre this evening I return to the cold, follow my shadow towards the clubhouse where I can return to the familiar clatter of the keyboard.

Did you know?

James B. Donovan

James B. Donovan, American lawyer. Defender of Rudolf Abel and negotiator of prisoner exchange that included Abel for American U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers and graduate student Frederic Pryor.

In 1945 James B. Donovan (played by Tom Hanks) was assistant to Justice Robert H. Jackson at the Nuremberg trials in Germany. Seven Nazi war criminals convicted at Nuremberg were imprisoned at Spandau Prison.

Picture Credit:
“James B. Donovan” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

About The Author

Paul has worked with the Paradigm Motion Picture Company since 2009 as producer, historian and research specialist. Paul first met Casey and Ian WIlliams of Paradigm in April 2007 at Ieper (Ypres), Belgium when ceremonies were being held for the re-dedication of the Vimy Memorial, France. Paul's sensitivity to film was developed at an early age seeing his first films at RCAF Zweibrucken, Germany and Sardinia. Paul returned to Canada in 1967 and was captivated by David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Bridge on the River Kwai". Over time Paul became increasingly interested in storytelling, content development, character, direction, cinematography, narration and soundtracks. At the University of Victoria, Paul studied and compared Japanese and Australian film and became interested in Australian film maker Peter Weir and his film "Gallipoli" (1981). Paul was inspired when he learned Weir visited the beaches, ridges and ravines of the peninsula. "Gallipoli", the film, led Paul on many journeys to sites of conflict in England, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Malta, Hawaii, Gallipoli, North Macedonia and Salonika. When Paul first watched documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, "The Civil War", Paul understood how his own experience and insight could be effective and perhaps influential in film-making. Combining his knowledge of Museums and Archives, exhibitions and idea strategies with his film interests was a natural progression. Paul thinks like a film-maker. His passion for history and storytelling brings to Paradigm an eye (and ear) to the keen and sensitive interests of; content development, the understanding of successful and relational use of collections, imagery and voice. Like Paul's favorite actor, Peter O'Toole, Paul believes in the adage “To deepen not broaden.” While on this path Paul always remembers his grandmother whose father did not return from the Great War and how his loss shaped her life and how her experience continues to guide him.


One Response to “BASED ON TRUE EVENTS”

  1. pferguson says:

    Very happy to hear that Mr. Mark Rylance received an Academy Award for his role in “Bridge of Spies”. Congratulations to you and all the recipients and nominees this evening. All the best for continued success.

Leave a Reply