Yeah, Judge Dylan Charles doesn't joke about suicide. At least not in public.
Our review of The Bridge (1959) (Blu-ray) Criterion Collection, published June 19th, 2015, is also available.
Be afraid of what lies beneath…
During 2004, Eric Steel and his team parked their cameras at the north and the south side of the Golden Gate Bridge. For the entire year they recorded the bridge and watched for jumpers, people wanting to end their lives by throwing themselves over the edge. The Bridge shows as they climb over the railing and then drop into the water below. Steel interviewed the family and the friends of the people who killed themselves, finding out the reasons, the possible motivations, that would lead someone to killing themselves.
This is not an exploitative film. It is at times shocking, depressing and terribly sad, but not exploitative. Steel doesn't just film people killing themselves and then leave it at that. He tries to give an explanation for why they did what they did. They jumped because they felt trapped, that they had no other choice, that their only option was just to end it. His interviews are well conducted, with family members who are hurt and shaken by their loss—but never surprised. I don't think any of them ever expressed surprise at the choice that their loved ones made.
Steel handles it all very well, from the interviews to the shots of the bridge itself. And there's the opening minutes of the film, in which there's a montage of shots showing the Golden Gate Bridge; tourists walking along taking pictures, joggers and bikers. It starts to drag after a while, becoming monotonous. Which makes it all the more shocking when one man carefully climbs over and leaps.
But there's something lacking. I watched The Bridge with other folks and we all agreed that there wasn't enough there. Whether it was an interview with some kind of expert (a psychologist or two), a larger overview of the problem of suicide itself or even just more statistics, it just feels like Steel didn't go far enough. The Bridge is an eye-opening experience, it says, "Look, we have a problem here. There are people who aren't getting the help they need." And then it falls silent.
But considering this is his first documentary, Steel has done a remarkable job. The Bridge is terribly sad and even moving. It shows the problem, a big problem, that needs a solution and needed to be pointed out.
The making-of-featurette is a series of interviews with Steel and his crew. They talk about their experiences and watching as people chose to end their own lives. The featurette acts as supplement to the documentary itself, offering one more viewpoint to the overall mix. There's also a PSA, featuring Kevin Hines, one of the people interviewed for The Bridge. He was a jumper as well, but survived the experience.
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