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The Bridge

A movie directed by Eric Steel

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The Bridge -- the most popular place to ... well ... kill yourself

  • Oct 13, 2010

Eric Steel assembled a group of what amounts to camera people to film the Golden Gate Bridge over the course of a year. Why?

More suicides are committed on that spot of geography than any other. Mr. Steel learned this from The New Yorker in 2003. Starting from the first day of 2004, he brgan shooting the bridge. During the course of 90 minutes, the cameras catch a number of people jumping from the bridge.

I’m not kidding.

The film consists of two things, shots of the Golden Gate Bridge from all sorts of angles in all weather and some totally stunning time-lapse shots and interviews with friends and family of those who decided to jump. The personal emotional storm caused between these two fronts--real suicides caught and presented and the careful, honest, and dignified interviews—will not be something that will go away soon.

It is fitting that my digital cable plays Peter Gabriel’s “Don’t Give Up” while I write this. I don’t accept kismet, but if I needed a song around to write this piece, I can think of no other that would be as effective.

One thing that struck me so deeply was the lack of tears in those interviewed. Only one woman, whose face isn’t shown, sheds more than just the tear or two that comes with sad sniffles. Upon reflection, I believe I know why and it is both a strength and a weakness for the film. The issue is mental illness. Suicides involve mental illness in all but the drug induced. I am confident in this statement despite saying “all” I’ve studied this topic (specifically and mental illness generally) to be able to back this statement with chapter and verse.

The strength is the discussion of mental illness from those left to find out the news. No one was surprised to learn of the suicide of their loved one. It seemed as if the leap was a fait accompli and the stories they told were of the dissolution from a sense of at least some stability to the sudden mental then physical descent to the end.

The weakness is that The Bridge did not focus on this enough. Twenty-four people successfully killed themselves by leaping from the bridge in 2004. I liked the individual stories, but I would have liked to see something from at least one professional. The film of the people falling is the mentally ill themselves; they are not stunt people. I won’t say that The Bridge glorifies suicide in general or from the Golden Gate Bridge in particular, but it also does nothing to refute the behavior.

A photographer walking on the bridge and taking pictures actually rescued a woman (this was also caught on Mr. Steel’s cameras). What he said is applicable to The Bridge and is an indictment of sorts. He says that as he was taking pictures of the bridge and then of the woman as she climbed over to jump, he felt like a National Geographic photographer. He saw things through the lens as a great shot, a type of fiction. Then he realized the situation and grabbed her from the little platform that runs alongside the bridge.

The camera people did have Bridge Patrol on their cell phones and apparently did what they could to stop people who looked suspicious. At least 2 of the jumpers didn’t hesitate at all and never bothered with the little platform; they threw themselves from the railing. The indictment is that we are never given information of how many times the camera people called the Bridge Patrol and successfully stopped a suicide attempt. There are 2 occasions where people on the bridge call 911, but nothing from the crew. I’m not saying they were guilty of anything except perhaps poor taste, but did they become so engrossed with the semi-fiction you get from staring through a lens?

Recommendations? I watched it, but the topic is beyond easy understanding. The jumpers are real. Their impact is real. The topic is raw, but not covered as professionally as I think is necessary. My real problem ultimately is not with the shock of knowing it’s real. My problem is that the issue of suicide and mental illness do not get the attention they need to indicate just how serious it is. Instead, the audience is given the romance of the bridge and the stories of those left behind. Ultimately I have to say that I cannot recommend it.


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December 13, 2011
Wow, speaking of kismet...I sat down to write a review of a play by the same name (no relation) that my friend produced that's about the same thing...almost. It's about suicide with three different attempts and each time but, once, a sax man that plays by the bridge saves them. I drive on this bridge quite a bit and never knew it was the top place for suicides...what a fact! I also wonder what happened to those that live...not all that jump from the bridges (the other being the Bay Bridge) die. Great write-up!
December 13, 2011
The survivors wind up with a large number of broken and fractured bones depending on which part hits the water first -- usually the feet for those that survive. The surface tension for water is not all that far off from concrete for objects falling as fast as they do when they finally reach the water. The documentary does interview the one survivor for the year covered and I believe he had broken bones in all 4 limbs and spinal fractures.
December 15, 2011
I remember hearing exactly that- a ton of broken bones and most even end up as paraplegic. I'm glad that they added that survivor in there, for a fair portrayal. That is just craziness though...
More The Bridge reviews
review by . March 16, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: some beautiful camera work of surrounding areas      Cons: depressive      The Bottom Line:    "One more sunset, maybe I'd be satisfied   But then again   I know what it would do   Leave me wishing still,   For one more day with you"   ~Diamond Rio       I'll admit I watched The Bridge for very personal reasons.  It is a documentary by director Eric …
review by . July 19, 2009
The topic is quite difficult, but I feel like the director brought a human face to a problem that everyone feels helpless to solve. Dozens of people kill themselves each year on the Golden Gate bridge, but not much is known about the families and the impact on them. The Bridge conducts sobering interviews with both people who witnessed the suicides and those left behind.       With a lot of patience, the crew filmed for a year and caught about 24 suicides. This was done with …
review by . May 18, 2008
posted in Movie Hype
When I asked my husband what movie we were watching tonight and he gave me this films description, I was immediately repulsed. I argued with him about watching such a depressing film and pretty much begged him to find something else on TV. I had no interest in watching people leap to their deaths and then listen to their families as they morn their lost loved ones.      As is usually the case in remote control wars in my home, I lost. So I grabbed my book and settled in to ignore …
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Paul Savage ()
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About this movie


The Bridge

The Bridge is a 2006 documentary film by Eric Steel that tells the stories of a handful of individuals who committed suicide at the Golden Gate Bridge in 2004. The film was inspired by an article entitled "Jumpers," written by Tad Friend appearing in The New Yorker magazine in 2003.

A DVD version of the film was released by Koch Lorber Films on June 12, 2007.

The Bridge focuses on the large number of suicides that occur each year at the Golden Gate Bridge, capturing footage of the suicides and interviewing family members. Also interviewed are people who have attempted suicide at the bridge, witnesses of the suicides, and a jump survivor.

The movie was shot with multiple cameras pointed at a notorious suicide spot on the bridge during 2004. It captured 23 people as they took their final plunge, and then offers interviews with grieving families.

The soundtrack of The Bridge is composed by the British film composer Alex Heffes and is called The Shadow of the Bridge.

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Movies, documentaries, San Francisco, Golden Gate Bridge


Director: Eric Steel
Genre: Documentary
DVD Release Date: June 12, 2007
Runtime: 94 minutes
Studio: Koch Lorber Films
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