produced and directed by Eric Steel
Inspired by the Article “Jumpers,” written by Tad Friend, The Bridge is a documentary style film about people who end their lives at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. I suppose partly because the pedestrian sidewalks on the bridge are not fenced in, making it easy to scale the hand rail and jump, the Golden Gate Bridge is the most popular single spot in the world for suicides. The film was shot in 2004 when 24 people jumped and died at the bridge, many of them filmed by Eric Steel and appearing in this movie. It’s disturbing, too, because over the course of several months of filming at the bridge the camera caught the last moments of a couple dozen people stopping, gazing downward, walking back-and-forth indecisively, making cell phone calls, making the final decision, then climbing the pedestrian rails and leaping off. (It takes a little more than 5-seconds to hit the water - I counted.) You can imagine some of the controversy: Steel had to get permission from the American National Parks Service to film at the bridge, but he had to be less than totally honest about what he was looking to film, what his intentions were; what provisions were made to stop and rescue jumpers seen and recorded by cameramen before it was too late?; was Steel intending to make some kind of gruesome snuff movie?
But I was impressed with the film. Of course it shows people hesitating, deciding, climbing, jumping, hitting the water and then being fished out by a U.S. Coast Guard boat afterwards. But the majority of the film is devoted to interviews with surviving friends and family of a small handful of suicides. I was impressed by the perspicacity of the people because I didn’t expect Americans to be so articulate about such a difficult topic. Oh, well. It was particularly interesting to watch an interview with a young man who survived the fall. Talk about divine intervention …
I am disappointed, however, that the people Steel focused on were mentally ill, or socially alienated, or some otherwise troubled souls. It plays to the false notion that suicides are crazy people and that ending one’s life is a sure sign of a disturbed mind, or mental instability. Instead, he could have focused on the lot who end their lives perfectly sanely, for entirely sane reasons and with completely stable minds - those who are just nauseated by the existential ridiculousness of life; those who say they would rather jump off a bridge than to look at you and mean it (boy, if only I had a dollar for every time I hear that - I’d be a couple dollars richer); those whose situation in life makes suicide the only natural course for them to take, etc. I mean the hidden majority of suicides.