The Bridge Reviews
With all the time spent filming such a powerful topic, it had a serious lack of depth.
The Golden Gate Bridge is a really popular suicide site. This documentary talks about the people who committed suicide and it shows interviews with the family's of those who killed themselves.
It was a very difficult decision to use actual footage of those who committed suicide but the director was brave enough to do it. The film also got controversy because Eric Steel lied on his permit to the Golden Gate Bridge. This was a very risky film to make because if word got out about it then more people could try to jump to have their deaths recorded. Also, it was shown that suicide rates on the Golden Gate Bridge did in fact increase since the film was released.
But all controversy aside, this was actually a good film. It contains an honest look at suicide and the director tried to pay as much respect as possible to the people who lost their lives. Eric Steel looked for the families of the people who lost their lives and he compassionately interviewed them for the film.
This movie also has several powerful scenes which can be hard to watch. But this movie's power doesn't really come from its content as much as it comes from the emotional piano score. It's real simple but it's very effective at getting emotions out of the audience. The most powerful scene is the opening in my opinion.
But while this is a good work of art, I don't feel that it is really great. After watching the interviews for about an hour, I didn't feel like I was growing substantially from the film. I know that it had a message and I got it but I really didn't feel much of an impact because of it. Also, it can be quite disheartening to know that when someone died on film, the cameramen likely felt satisfaction knowing that they got footage for their film.
However, the fact that they refused to tell the family's that they filmed the deaths of their loved ones can be excused because they were trying to do their best to make sure that word didn't come out that they were filming suicides. If it did then they could have caused more suicides as some people would want their deaths to be immortalized on film.
In conclusion, this is a pretty good film. It could've been better if they worked on the message of the film more but I still found it to be a powerful film which is an honest look at suicide. I also feel that because of its controversy, it has become somewhat overlooked and misunderstood. I for one liked this film. I'm not sure if I'd watch it again but I do feel that people should give it a second chance.
The director then goes to interview all the loved ones about the impact of these suicides. The first story that shocked me was a young man who jumped but changed his mind & landed properly but miraculously survived.
The final story which is by far the most tragic & affected me profoundly, the story of Gene a charismatic black rocker who had so much going for him (even a call back from a Video Game Shop offering him a management job on the day of the suicide) and the final moments of the film capturing his tragic leap to freedom.
My issue is not simply with the recording of the suicides/them not being prevented- there is certainly a moral discussion to be had here, but I'm honestly not that interested in looking into the filmmaker's justifications in this regard.
My issue amounts more to what is simply a lack of depth on the film's part, that unfortunately does not fit well with the frequent clips on the last moments of people's lives. Multiple friends and family members of suicide victims come forward with their own interpretations of the lives of the individuals in question. The whole film is really just that and then clips of said people jumping from the bridge.
To me, there is just something missing here and it's the film's fatal flaw. I hear countless possible explanations for why these people did what they did but I get no real understanding of who they were. There's also the issue that some of the people interviewed seem to be (understandably) dealing with their own issues, and I'm not sure that the filmmaker was ever really able to engage with the full emotions of the people that he spoke to. These things alone are disappointments but it's understandable given that the victims can't speak for themselves. However, when you combine this surface-level understanding of a person and then show me that same person jumping to their death, I find it hard to see what the film is really trying to achieve. What exactly am I, or any audience member, gaining from this work?
As the film concludes, we're shown one man sitting around the bridge, before then taking his own life. Over this footage there is some dialogue, including the following "Why he chose the bridge? I don't know... maybe he just wanted to fly one time"
Whilst watching, I had some remarks of my own- Why on Earth am I watching a man jump to his death, only to be told that he "maybe" did it because he wanted to fly? I can just imagine the film being edited- "insert the clip of the death here, and then add some of the interview talk over it- now we've got something worthwhile". I beg to differ.
I just can't ignore the divide between the visceral nature of this film and the little insight that it actually offers. I recommend 'Boy Interrupted' instead as it's a far more powerful and insightful work around suicide than this mess is.
Having said all of that, I watched this film for a reason and, whilst I was disappointed, I can't deny that there is something about the subject matter that I find interesting. So many lives ended in the same spot and so many other lives impacted by it- I think there's enough there to justify a film such as this one. However, such a film would have to tread with caution and provide its audience with a clear justification so as to be worthwhile- such a film would have to offer something true and, unfortunately 'The Bridge' offers none of this.
The documentary sets up as it means to go on very early with an on screen death and just continues to shock and really make you think. I think the worst shots of all are ones that are just a static shot of the bridge and after awhile you'll just see a splash in the water and while the bridge might have looked nice at first, by the end it just looks like a monster.
The stories of the people who had family and friends commit suicide at the bridge is, needless to say, hard to watch but it is very compelling, you feel for these people. Although it might be a bit taboo to say this, this is for the majority of the people who are interviewed. There are some that treat the friend or family member like they weren't human after their passing which I won't get into but even one of the people who thankfully survived, his family started to treat him like an alien, and like he said, 'I just want to be normal again'. His story was probably the most heartbreaking of all.
The film does raise some questions, even though I have read that the film crew alerted the authorities when they suspected someone would jump, and while they at least tried to do something, I still don't really know how to feel about the fact that they were waiting there, essentially, to film people dying so they could use it for commercial gain. I just started thinking about, if I could ever do something like that and the answer was no!
Saying that though, is it morbid or sensitive? Is it disturbing or fascinating? It is all of the above and none of them at the same time. The documentary is very neutral and just tells it like it is and leaves it up for the viewer to decide, which might lead into one of the negatives. At 95 minutes the film doesn't really offer any answers to its topic, there might not be any for one, but seeing people dying for an hour and a half with no real conclusion is its biggest positive and weakness. It is good that it doesn't take a side and lets you think about the topic without clouding your judgement but on the other hand, it doesn't take a side so you don't really know what the message of it was and, again, maybe there isn't one.
I only have one real complaint about the filmmaking, about half way through there is a scene with really upbeat music while it shows images of the bridge and it felt insanely out of place, I was contemplating skipping it but thankfully it wasn't on for very long.
Besides being a very strange topic to be your début and be a film in general, The Bridge is compelling and very honest and will stay with you for a long time after you watch it and it will be all you can think about for some time, be you repulsed or emotionally devastated. It might not provide any answers but perhaps that wasn't the point as it makes the viewer think a lot for themselves, namely, why haven't they done anything to prevent suicides at this bridge, yet?