Culture Ministry Faces Dilemma over 'Mission Impossible' Bridge

Paweł Kuźniar

Poland's Ministry of Culture and National Heritage is scratching its head over the fate of an old bridge film-makers want to blow up during filming for the seventh 'Mission Impossible' movie.

The lucrative movie franchise starring Tom Cruise is due to be filmed in part in Poland, where the makers want to make use of a 111-year-old bride in the village of Pilchowice in the southern province of Silesia.

Built in 1909 to service connections between Wleń and Jelenia Góra, the 151-metre bridge was constructed on two sandstone pillars and suspended 40 metres over Lake Pilchowickie.

The row erupted after director Christopher McQuarrie posted a photo on his Instagram feed in December, with locals quick to respond.

One the one hand, Polish authorities are obliged to encourage the movie industry to shoot in the country; on the other, they are committed to protecting ancient architecture.

Officially inaugurated on July 28th, 1909, the launch of the railway line was met with great fanfare at the time, not least because of the scenic route it took – by the end of the 1920s, it’s said that over 70,000 tourists were using the line annually.

However, recent history has not been kind to the bridge and in 2016 it was decommissioned following years of gradual deterioration.

Deputy Culture Minister Paweł Lewandowski seemed unperturbed by the issue however: "I would not be fixated on the fact that the Pilchowicki Bridge is a monument," he told the Wirtualna Polska portal. "It stands in ruins and has no value. Not all old things are monuments. The law clearly states that a monument is only that which has social, artistic or scientific value. In art and culture, that value only emerges when there is a relation between the cultural object and people. So if an object is unused, unavailable, it has no such value. Therefore it is not a monument. (...) And only a small part of it will be destroyed during filming."

"We have a new law on audio-visual incentives," the deputy minister continued. "If a large American producer wants to come to us, we are waiting for him with open arms."

But while to the ministry the bridge is currently a post-inductrial relic of no aesthetic or social value, they want the structure renovated and returned to use as a railway bridge, believing it has value as a tourist attraction.

They also believe that the Mission Impossible film, dubbed 'Libra,' will have value in promoting the whole region and are in favour of the crew filming there.

There is some hope in the fact that 'green fiming' is fashionable in Holywood at the moment and film makers strive to minimise environmental damage, going out of their way to do eveything ecologically.

Meanwhile, state railway company PKP has sought to reassure locals posting Twitter: "There are over 3,300 railway bridges [in Poland]. We do not blow up the bridges, we improve their condition - the historical ones are preserved!"

The bottom line, as so often, is money. The ministry lacks the legal authority to guarantee funds for the bridge's renovation. But if the filming is set to go ahead, Lewandowski said his ministry will do everything to ensure that funds from PKP's revitalisation money are made available for the ancient structure. He also believes the Hollywood fim makers may provide money to rebuild the bridge.

The bridge is set to feature in Libra's tralier and it is believed that star Tom Cruise will actively promote Poland. There are even plans to turn to locality into a film-related tourist attraction after filming.

Those plans my be scuppered, however, by the intentions of the Silesian Monument Conserver to list the bridge as a mounument, something the Culture Ministry has no control over.

The International Committee for the Conservation of the Industrial Heritage has written to Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki appealing to have the bridge presevred. Meanwhile, Tom Cruise is expected in Poland in September ahead of filming next April. So the future hangs in the balance for the Pilchowicki Bridge.