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The Bridge
The Bridge
Actor: John Snowden
Director: Eric Steel
Genres: Documentary
R     2007     1hr 34min

The Golden Gate Bridge is an iconic structure; a symbol of San Francisco, the West, freedom ? and something more, something spiritual, something words cannot describe. — The director and crew spent an entire year focusing o...  more »


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Movie Details

Actor: John Snowden
Director: Eric Steel
Creators: Peter Baldwin, Peter McCandless, Eric Steel, Sabine Krayenbühl, Alison Palmer Bourke, Jessica Wolfson
Genres: Documentary
Sub-Genres: Documentary
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 06/12/2007
Original Release Date: 06/12/2007
Release Year: 2007
Run Time: 1hr 34min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 8
MPAA Rating: R (Restricted)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

A study in compulsion and grief
Mr. Richard K. Weems | Fair Lawn, NJ USA | 06/22/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"One of the pure joys (a word I use intentionally considering its disturbing connotations in this context) of the documentary is the element of challenge--to undertake a concept that brings up more questions than answers, more complexity than simplicity. When the proper challenge is identified, it is the talented film maker who explores rather than concludes, who looks for the range of possibility and concern, the mirror of real life if you will, rather than find an oversimplified answer to everything.

And this is where this film succeeds immensely.

The Golden Gate Bridge is evidently one of the most popular spots for suicide in the world. In 2004, when this film was shot, 24 people threw themselves from it. And Eric Steel, shooting the bridge from various angles during this year, caught several of those suicides.

There is an ethical discussion to be had about the premise of the film alone, an effort to capture suicides on film rather than prevent them from happening. But Steel's handling of these events is far more human and considerate than the manipulative handling of so-called reality shows, where the people are but spectacles who can be maneuvered and edited in any which way to get a pre-desired end. Steel takes these suicides and studies them by talking to the deceased's relatives and friends, or people who witnessed the event, to look at not only the impact of suicide and mental illness, but also the effects of relationships, of living through the day-to-day and not wanting (or not expecting) such events of drama in their lives.

The ranges of attitudes regarding mental illness alone are well worth watching this movie for. From a couple of kiters who are so into their sport that they cannot relate at all to a person's desire to hurl himself to his own death, to parents who have to live with the fact that their own son will most likely find a way to kill himself (and eventually does). People who live with regret for their own actions (or lack thereof) or anger at a loved one for leaving them in that way. The suicides in this film are not presented in any way to glorify them. Instead, each and every person who jumps (or who attempts to jump) comes across as scared and confused. The jumper who survives his attempt describes it best when he says how he was determined to die until his hands actually let go of the rail, at which point he knew that he didn't want to die anymore. Every jumper in this film comes across as a frightened and confused person, even a guy who seems to be talking almost casually on a phone before he climbs up onto a rail, crosses himself and goes.

The story of Gene, the thread that is carried through the movie as we see a man in black with a long mop of curly hair pace back and forth along the bridge as though either looking for the right spot or trying to convince himself to finally go through with it, is probably the most compelling for the essence of painful tragedy involved. His death caps off the film perfectly--it is both sad and shocking, and definitely a punch in the gut. Steel takes a highly difficult subject that many people should be enraged and shocked by, and he treats it more as a story of the survivors and our own confusion towards this compulsion and determination. Alas, these are human beings after all, so we are compelled to find some way to cope with the fact that our own can be so flawed.
Wow, into the hearts of darkness
Andrew D. Dixon Jr. | Jacksonville, Florida United States | 05/09/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I spotted this film by randomly surfing my channel guide on Sat TV and watched it on IFC May 8. The program description actually left me in a state of disbelief; there's no way they could do an entire documentary on suicidal plunges from this bridge, can they? They sure did. It's an amazing piece of journalism into what others have already described as taboo in normal journalism. The comments from the families and friends of the jumpers weave the story together incredibly. The documentary was inspired by a New Yorker magazine article called "Jumpers" about the same subject matter. The Golden Gate Bridge has more suicides at that one location than any other place on earth. Morbid at times as others described here, but relentlessly compelling as we watch the film progess and try to figure out why in the hell this bridge has a strange and fatal attraction for those who are so mentally disturbed, they'll hurl themselves over to a watery death. Incredibly, one attempt is thwarted by a tourist taking pictures that is captured on film. And one jumper who actually survived (his jump was not caught on film) tells what it's like to fall from such a staggering height into the bay. He describes how when he let go of the rail of the bridge, he immediately regretted his decision to jump and as he fell he readjusted his body hoping to have the least impact when he hit the water in the hopes of somehow surviving, which he did. But the fatal leaps interspliced with real life perspectives from those who knew the jumpers are in fact strangely fascinating. Fascinating mostly because the local and national media normally just don't care to report suicides with justified reasons. It's a glimpse into an area that is largely ignored, yet intriguing to look at because it is so rare to hear from the associates of those who choose to end their own lives. And some of the footage of the leaps, we really haven't seen such gripping, horrifying and again, morbidly compelling footage since the dark days of Sept. 11, 2001, when victims of the terrorist attacks in the Twin Towers jumped to their deaths for obviously different reasons."
About Suffering They Were Never Wrong, The Old Masters
Theresa Williams | USA | 07/06/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"_The Bridge_ was inspired by a 2003 New Yorker article called "Jumpers" by Tad Friend.

The most disturbing, and the most controversial, aspect of the film is that you witness actual suicides as they take place. Steel was able to capture nearly all the suicides that took place in 2004 by setting up cameras and letting them run. Steel then interviewed friends and family members of people who jumped. What emerges is a story about intense pain and desperation, people who felt they were somehow on the outside of life. What also emerges is a story about the rest of us who really don't want to know about such things because they bring us pain.

It's been nearly week since I saw the film, and I'm still haunted by the images, the people. I can't shake the thought that I witnessed their last act. One of them was a young man named Gene. I keep seeing him in my mind's eye, walking up and down the railing, his long black hair flying in the wind, waiting, searching, for the right moment to jump.

This, of course, is Eric Steel's intent: I'm not supposed to be able to shake the images. I'm supposed to be disturbed by them.

Watching, I thought of W.H. Auden's poem, "Musee des Beaux Arts":

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters; how well, they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening
a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.
In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.


Steel wants viewers to make the connection to Auden's poem, I think. The spirit of the poem is suggested in the imagery several times. Steel shows us that suffering takes place all around us. Yet we don't notice because we have "somewhere to get to." We sail "calmly on."

If you're looking for light entertainment or factual documentary, this film is not for you. I love dark themes and thought-provoking material, and I don't think anything else I've ever seen matches the intensity of this film. _The Bridge_ will encourage viewers to think deeply about artistic and social responsibility. And the film will engage you in a little known or thought about aspect of life.

While I thought that I was learning how to live, I have been
Cherise Everhard | Michigan, USA | 05/19/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"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 the tube. Five minutes into it, my book was forgotten and I was riveted. As silly as this may sound, it wasn't as depressing as I thought it would be. It's shocking, disturbing, sad and tragic, but more than that it's fascinating. I could not believe how many people have killed themselves on that bridge. It's frightening.

I was really against watching this film as I have had two people I have loved deeply commit suicide. There isn't a pain on this earth that is comparable to the pain that friends and family experience after someone kills themselves. I didn't want to watch others go through what I have already gone through, I thought it would be too hard. Surprisingly the friends and families are at a place in the grieving process where they have accepted what happened and some even understand why it happened. A lot of the people who jumped had a history of mental illness or some sort of long term problems. One father seemed to find his peace by thinking his son was finally got what he wanted, that he was finally happy.

The absolute desperation these people must have felt to take such a terrifying leap is palpable. It's impossible to not feel empathy for all those involved. Despite the subject matter, it's not a gory film and it doesn't glorify, over dramatize, or try to play with the sympathies and emotions of the viewer. I am not sure what purpose this film serves, but for me it helped me see the suicides of my loved ones in a little different light, maybe I won't be so angry anymore, maybe I can find my peace in their peace.

Cherise Everhard, May 2008