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.
What did you think of this review?
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.