The Bridge Review
By Chris Cabin
The moral and ethical questions that are brought about by Eric Steel's The Bridge might be a tad too daunting for one review. Surely, a film that wants to explore the reasons why San Francisco's famed Golden Gate Bridge holds the title of "most popular place to commit suicide" has a curious and notable goal. Perhaps Steel's film just isn't that film.At the beginning of 2004, Steel and his associates set up a series of cameras around the Golden Gate Bridge, capturing nearly every angle imaginable. The end result was thousands of hours of footage of the bridge itself, including 24 suicides and a few dozen attempts. Through several interviews with friends and family, Steel tries to understand why these people, specifically one man named Gene Sprague, felt the need to end their lives and why they chose the Golden Gate as their jumping point and the meeting place of the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean as their place of demise.The idea of the film was born in an article from The New Yorker called "Jumpers" and was influenced by a Pieter Breughel painting "Landscape with the Fall of Icarus." In the Breughel painting, life is flourishing as Icarus drowns in the ocean, his kicking limbs unnoticeable to anyone but a studious observer. Steel's concern is with Icarus and the inferno he was escaping, but not with the world that does not notice the fallen one, inside or outside of the painting.The suicide footage does have a gripping effect; watching the mildly calm beings climb over the railing and take their last plunge is bewildering in every sense of the word. The problem comes with us not really being seduced into the world of these people and understanding their fascination with the bridge and their reasons for going over. There's no talk of the construction of the bridge, nor of its design by architect Joseph Strauss. There are several nice shots of the bridge, but its danger and odd lure isn't given full breadth here.Though the trials and tribulations of the seven souls the film chronicles are documented well by friends and family, there is no real understanding given to where they were at the time. The effectiveness of the film's psychology is fatally hindered by its inability to connect us to these people and their reasons for wanting to die. The same goes for the interviews; most of those in the interviews knew the suicides well and knew their little ways and habits, but we aren't invited to really understand them. In fact, the most interesting interview comes from a man who was just taking pictures of the bridge when he noticed a girl who was about to jump. He explains how he had to draw himself out from behind his camera to realize what she was trying to do. It's a moment of interesting human behavior that gives the film flavor.The Bridge conjures up ideas of suicide and why people do it, but it never fully explores them, nor does it really capture the allure of the Golden Gate. However, there's a chance that this is too tall an order. A film that successfully gives insight on why people decide to leave this world and explains why a certain monument attracts these lost souls? That's a daunting task.