Review of “The Bridge” directed by Eric Steel

Review of "the Bridge" directed by Eric Steel
rating *** 1/2

In 2004 twenty-four people committed suicide by jumping off the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge. In this unusual documentary, filmmaker Eric Steel captured a number of these suicides by using a team of cameramen to film the bridge over the course of a year. The end result is an illuminating look at the causes of suicide and the effects suicides have on those left behind.

While this film does capture people as they leap to their deaths, it is not done for sensationalistic purposes. The filmmaker interviews family members and friends of the jumpers to try to determine what  led to such drastic measures. Several common traits seem to emerge. Most of the jumpers suffer from mental illnesses: schizophrenia, bipolar disease, or simply depression. Most of them are lonely. Many of them are on some kind of medication. Some have turned to illegal drugs or alcohol.

The first jumper is an elderly man who wastes no time as he climbs the rail and lunges forward. Most, however, spend time on the bridge gazing down as they contemplate jumping. One man in particular, Gene, is shown throughout the film as he paces back and forth across the bridge. His is the last suicide shown, and when you see it you’ll understand why.

All of the suicides are disturbing to watch. Yet each is different. Some sit on the rail as if they’re waiting for someone to intervene. Other’s give no inclination that they are planning to jump. One man in particular is seen making several calls on his cell phone just prior to jumping.

The film includes several suicide attempts that were prevented by police or passersby. There is also an interview with a young man who survived the plunge into San Francisco Bay.

As you watch the film you never know who or when someone is going to jump, just as those filming never knew. In the making of documentary included on the DVD, you learn that everyone filming was given the responsibility of phoning bridge authorities if they suspected someone was about to jump. The Golden Gate Bridge is seen from every conceivable angle in all kinds of weather conditions. But even these scenic scenes are sometimes abruptly altered by the sight of a person unexpectedly falling from the bridge. Sometimes you only catch the splash, never having seen the actual jump.

Life is a roller coaster. Everyone experiences ups and downs. Some people, for whatever reason, can’t see far enough ahead to see that the ride is about to go up. Gene, for example, is despondent over a number of things including his inability to find a job. What he apparently didn’t know was that he had received an e-mail offering him a job on the day he committed suicide. One man leaves a suicide note that reads: I’m fifty years old and I have no money; I have no job; I have no career; I have no partner; I have no home. We all get depressed now and then. Hopefully, this film will help someone in the same state find a better solution.

Another positive to come out of the film is the construction of a suicide barrier on the bridge that is to be completed next year. Unfortunately, as delays in construction continue, the number of suicides from the bridge have increased.

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