Nick's Review of The Bridge
Exploitation has many faces, many indulgers. But neither is "The Bridge" its latest visage nor is director Eric Steel its latest coddler. Despite the hideous subject matter, this shapely documentary is cared for with tremendous sensitivity, and transcends its own form to capture human tragedy like so many dramatic productions try and fail at. It's in no manner of thespian motivation, either. Steel composes interviews with the victims' relatives, suicide survivors, and multiple witnesses with the sole intention of learning how and why this phenomenon (self-inflicted fatality) occurs. And the fact that he gets nowhere near an explanation from any of the nearly two-dozen interviewees is a testament to their (both the victims and their families) suffering.
Shot over the course of a year (2004), "The Bridge" focuses on a single spot in the middle of the Golden Gate Bridge, where there were 24 known suicides (one attempt every 15 days, on average). If that number doesn't upset you, the images of the actual acts will -- they're offered without the tastefulness of censorship, following each plummet to a splash. But the film doesn't mean to be tasteful; rather it means to be provocative. And sobering. And the result is unnervingly intoxicating, and ironically humane.
But not everyone will see it that way. In fact, many will detest this truly genuine piece in filmmaking, for obvious (and relatively understandable) reasons. And so the question remains: Is it more disturbing that the life-ending leaps of 19 individuals are captured on film and released for our surveillance, or that The Bridge is so nuanced, so hauntingly serene that the terrible deaths it's formed around are likely to leave at least a portion of audiences with a feeling of calmness and comfort?