Bridge On The River Kwai – Movie Review Example
a) "Power is the ability to influence the decisions of others." -Roger Fisher Conflict is often considered a favourable stimulus for a desired outcome in an organization. It may seem to be the stirrup that is likely to control a trot through a canter and a gallop or vice-versa. In the movie, Bridge on the river Kwai, Colonel Nicholson and Colonel Saito both are characters who have an equal amount of power invested in them by rank. However, the situational dynamics allow Colonel Saito to assert his power more aggressively on Colonel Nicholson since Nicholson is leading the British soldiers who are prisoners of war to the Japanese.
The conflicting situation arises due to unreasonable demands made by the Japanese Colonel, which the British Colonel refuses to submit to. Saito’s obstinate stance and Nicholson’s refusal to give in, lead the issue to grow a head that grows bigger with Saito’s ego. As the conflict of interests between the two leaders accrues, Colonel Saito’s demand of manual labour by the British soldiers and his loud-mouthed threats and insinuations to the British troupe, clearly indicates a competing intention in conflict handling as he is both assertive and non-cooperative. Colonel Nicholson, on the other hand, refuses to allow his officers as well as soldiers to be treated as labor. He is assertive yet cooperative, thus indicating a collaborative approach to conflict resolution.
The conflict assumes a ‘difficult to resolve’ status as both leaders refuse to budge from their stance as a matter of pride and principle. The stakes are large at both ends and involve a single transaction resolution. The power equation is unfavourably skewed towards the Japanese as they are powerful whereas the other group is defenceless but the Japanese army loses its advantageous position due to a disorganized structure with weak leadership. The British, on the other hand, manage to tide over obstacles due to a more integrated organizational structure and strong leadership vested in Colonel Nicholson. Since there is no intervening neutral third-party, the resolution of conflict seems even more unachievable with the clash of principles. As the film progresses, Saito’s aggressive stance begins to weaken as it is fuelled more by dogmatism rather than reason and justifiable interests. His win-lose stance not only makes him lose out on his position of power against the opposing party but also leads to loss of respect and trust among his own men. Nicholson on the other hand, takes on personal suffering without breaking down in order to safeguard the interests of his men. His perseverance, fortitude and high emotional quotient even allow him a position of respect in the eyes of the enemy. Saito’s ego finally gives way to self-pity, when he is challenged by a threatening situation (that of the bridge not getting completed on time and the possibility of a scandal arising due to murder of British soldiers, as suggested by Major Clipton).
As the movie progresses, the conflict-intensity continuum that begins at an annihilatory level initiated by Saito loses duress due to the resilient spirit of the British Colonel and acquires a no-conflict status towards the end of the movie. As Saito buckles under the constraints of his own demands, Nicholson takes charge of the project of building a bridge across the river Kwai. His problem solving approach involves super ordination of goals and the expansion of resources through motivational yet non-compromising techniques.
b) “If we manage conflict constructively, we harness its energy for creativity and development.”
In 2005, Roger Fisher and Daniel Shapiro examined five concerns in their essay Beyond Reason: Using Emotions as You Negotiate ; concerns that may individually or cohesively be an integral part of the decision making process for people in a leadership position. These concerns are the ones that are important to both the leaders in this film, i.e., autonomy, affiliation, appreciation, status, and role but their expression and exposition of these traits are starkly dissimilar. The first three interactions between Saito and Nicholson clearly indicate a distributive style of negotiation by Saito. This was evident as Saito was in a position of power, as the British troupes had surrendered to the Japanese, and he was able to dictate terms without fear or a sense of loss. Saito wanted his demands met, even if that meant flouting the rules laid out by the Geneva Convention. Saiko’s power emanated from a short-term gain and bordered on the achievement of personal goals. Colonel Nicholson, in the early stages of negotiation, though embittered by physical fatigue, expressed the highest level of mental fortitude. Even though he was unable to negotiate aggressively, yet the song sung by his men ‘For he’s a jolly good fellow’ kept his morale and stance intact. Later, as Saito hides his emotional defeat under the guise of the celebration of Russo-Japanese war victory; Colonel Nicholson, who is now in-charge of the bridge project, exhibits an integrative style of negotiation by calling a planned and organized meeting with Saiko. He comes prepared with a well thought-through agenda to work towards a common goal. His vision and approach are congruent with the interest of the Japanese Colonel. His decision to help rebuild the entire bridge and sharing technical and geographical details with Saito, aims at sharing beneficial information to appease and modify the opposition’s behavior as also establish long-term relationships. He lays down the rules through reasonable clarification and justification and ensures that the objective that was being met leaves a sense of gratification in the opposition’s mind, and simultaneously highlighting the integrity and tensile spirit of the British army. Therefore, we may conclusively assert that Saiko’s style of negotiation was negative and destructive as it emanated from a false sense of personal achievement whereas Nicholson used a positive and constructive approach to negotiation, which was fuelled by the common interest of a larger group and his sense of responsibility towards them. Through the course of the movie, the cross-cultural differences in conflict-resolution strategies between the warring factions were prominent and indicative.
Fisher Roger, and Daniel Shapiro, Beyond Reason: Using Emotions as You Negotiate, New York, Viking/Penguin, 2005
Kaye Kenneth, Workplace Wars and How to End Them: Turning Personal Conflicts into Productive Teamwork, AMACOM Books, 1994