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Year: 2004
USA: Fine Line Features
Cast: F Murray Abraham, Kathy Bates, Gabriel Byrne, Geraldine Chaplin, Robert De Niro, Emilie Dequenne, Adriana Dominguez, Harvey Keitel, Samuel Le Bihan, Pilar Lopez de Ayala, John Lynch, Dominique Pinon, Mark Polish, Michael Polish, Jim Sheridan
Director: Mary McGuckian
Countries: Spain / UK / France
USA Rated: PG for thematic elements, some disturbing images and sensuality
USA Release Date: 24 June 2005 (Limited Release - wider)
USA Release Date: 10 June 2005 (Limited Release)


From the backstreet brothels and theatres of 18th century Lima to the majestic courts of Spain; from the palaces of Peruvian Archbishops to the Inquistadorial missions from Madrid; and from the sanctuary of Inca shrines high up among Andean villages to the straits of the American coastlines; comes a story of chance.

Perhaps an accident...

Perhaps not. But one thing is certain. Five seemingly unrelated voyagers find themselves united in the same destiny. Five people, on separate journeys for different reasons, happen to be crossing the bridge at San Luis Rey at noon on the fateful day of July 20th, 1714. The bridge breaks and all five fall to their deaths in the deep gorge below.

Was it chance or the hand of God that brought them together on that fatal day at that place and that moment in time? Or were they, in some way, to blame for what happened to them?

We begin with the announcement of some great catastrophe. There can be no doubt that something unthinkable has befallen and touched every last person on the streets of the city. The people of Lima fall to their knees in the great cathedral and murmur their prayers.

After the bodies of the victims are "approximately collected and approximately separated", then casketed, the crowds pay tribute to these five coffins on the altar of the great Cathedral at Lima and the heart-rending expression of sorrow continues. Only one person, Brother Juniper (Gabriel Bryne) seems apart from the emotional melee.

Having been schooled in questions of faith, he resolves immediately to take theology in hand and give it its rightful place among the exact sciences. The results of his controversial studies are brought to the attention of The Inquisition, presided over by The Archbishop Of Lima (Robert De Niro).

After compiling thousands of questions and filling scores of notebooks in his efforts to establish a theory in memoriam to the victims, Brother Juniper is best placed to understand the tragedy. During his defence, he attempts to unravel the reasons for the five having found themselves on that particular bridge on that particular day.

Thornton Wilder's second novel, The Bridge of San Luis Rey, was published in 1927 and established the author as one of the leading American writers of the twentieth century. It attracted immediate worldwide acclaim and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1928.
When The Bridge of San Luis Rey mysteriously collapses plunging five travellers to their deaths, was it chance or the hand of God that brought these five together at that fatal moment on the bridge? Or were they, themselves, responsible in some way for what happened? These questions are raised with compassion and answered by Wilder with an indirect affirmation of the power of love.

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