The Bridge
Maybe a more common sight than you would think at the Golden Gate Bridge.

Theatrical Release Date: 10/27/2006
Director: Eric Steel

Documentaries often are social commentaries, pushing to effect change in society. There are the ones about war, the environment, big business screwing the poor. With “The Bridge”, director Eric Steel decided to tackle a heady subject, the people who attempt and/or commit suicide by jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge.

I’m not going to get into a long monologue on suicide. Many people have moments of despair but they don’t take the ultimate step. Others, however, find their inner pain so unbearable that death seems like the only release.

What I found refreshing about “The Bridge” was that it wasn’t preaching about how we should help people in need. It isn’t a film full of overwrought friends and family members pleading for change.

Steel and his team interviewed the friends and family members just to get a glimpse into who these people were and what would lead someone to jumping. Some of the interviews are actually quite chilling, as we find out that many people knew the person was about to jump but they knew they couldn’t do anything to stop them. They could only say goodbye and hope that whatever happens after death would be better than how life had treated them.

As the film will tell you, more people have committed suicide by jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge than any other place. While not all of them are on screen, there were 24 suicide attempts from the bridge in 2004 alone.

If you are at all squeamish about watching someone fall to their death, this is definitely not the film for you. While the film is not gory, it does capture a number of jumpers. It’s both fascinating and disturbing to realize that any one of the people walking across the bridge could just leap off and end their lives; surreal to watch someone calmly looking out from the bridge, see them climb over the railing and then plunge over 200 feet to their demise.

In watching the making-of feature on the DVD, I was impressed to see how this project came about. Steel had read an article called “Jumpers” in the New Yorker magazine. It was calling for some sort of suicide prevention apparatus on the Golden Gate Bridge, a net or some other way to ensure no one could leap to their death.

I applaud the filmmakers for presenting this documentary in such a way as not to impose a preachy tone to it and not being so trite as to follow the outcome of efforts to suicide-proof the bridge.

The only real complaint I have about the film is that it feels very long. Treating the subject matter in such a passive manner allows the viewer to feel like a voyeur which may have been the intention – but it also means that there are long stretches of film that are very quiet and serene. Don’t watch this late at night or after a meal, you’ll end up falling asleep.

And in falling asleep, it creates an even more disturbing feeling about how you could fall asleep when people are dying right on screen in front of you. It’s one of the more eerie feelings I’ve had watching a film.

By now, I think you’ve been able to ascertain whether this is the kind of documentary for you or not. If so, I highly recommend it and I’m giving “The Bridge” a 4 out of 5, even though it moved very slow for me. However, I don’t think anyone (especially not me) would blame you for wanting to avoid the subject matter. This is clearly one of those instances where what you see is what you get.