In 10 Words or Less
Suicide is painless...except...
Loves: Good documentaries, life
When The Bridge first entered my consciousness, I can't deny it carried
with it a morbid curiosity, as it was purported to show real people
really killing themselves. That's technically kind of like a snuff film,
one of the longest standing taboos, much more shocking than on-screen
penetration. So, as someone who actively sought the video of R. Bud
Dwyer's very public self-execution, I knew I needed to see this study of
suicide and its graphic depiction of death.
Upon watching the film, I was in no way disappointed, though every base
expectation went unfulfilled. Instead of a gawking, sensational
exploration of how people kill themselves, full of lots of creepy
last-moments video, what director Eric Steel and his crew have created
is a tender look at the human condition, and did so not by making the
suicidal the subject of the movie, but the people they affect instead.
This is not a movie about the Golden Gate Bridge. This is not a movie
about the people who jump off the Golden Gate Bridge. This is a movie
about the people left behind by the people who jump off the Golden Gate
I've always felt that people who commit suicide in a public way are, in
at least some way, selfish people. Just because you've decided to end it
all, doesn't mean you need to inflict your sadness on strangers. I feel
like this film supports my opinions, focusing on the friends, family and
bystanders who are forever changed by their connection to those who
jumped. When you watch a family's nice day out destroyed by someone's
grandiose death wish, and the children forever left with that moment in
their minds, it's hard to feel much pity for the jumpers. And that's
before you get into the awful guilt inflicted upon people looking to
just take a pleasant walk.
Through interviews, photos and the striking video of the bridge, the
film manages to paint clear pictures of the suicide victims, though the
viewer never gets to meet them (with one major exception.) The details
of their lives and deaths are certainly interesting, but it's how the
info is shared, in heartfelt (and sometimes not-so-heartfelt) bits and
pieces, that get to the core of the matter. Using one man as a framework
for the film, building his story slowly and in great detail, Steel
essentially makes us one of the witnesses, almost implicit in his
actions, and an acquaintance to the lost. It's a bit manipulating, but
then, most good documentaries are.
Good documentaries also tend to have an agenda/point of view. What the
POV is here is up for some interpretation, as the title structure,
though filmed beautifully, is never more than a setting, a detail that
ties together a cast of characters sharing little more than a common
end. One almost gets the feeling that this film could have taken place
anywhere with enough depressed people and an iconic high spot. A bit
more exploration into why this spot is so popular for offing oneself
would have made an interesting subplot or special feature, but that will
have to wait for another foggy day.
Packed in a standard keepcase, the DVD features a static, anamorphic widescreen main menu, with options to watch the film, select scenes, check out extras, adjust languages and see previews. Language options include English Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 tracks, while subtitles are available in English SDH. There is no closed captioning.
The quality of the anamorphic widescreen transfer on this film is uniformly high, with vivid color, a high level of detail and not a speck of dirt or damage. Depending on the conditions at the time of a scene, the clarity can be like crystal, or fuzzy, but the presentation is consistently good. Some frames should be taken out and blown up as posters they are reproduced so well.
The audio, delivered as a Dolby Digital 5.1 track, is technically excellent, but not overwhelming, as one would expect from a documentary. Dialogue is very crisp, while the side and rear speakers get some enhancement on the music.
"A Short Feature on the Making of The Bridge," spends 19 minutes with Steel and his crew, as they discuss the motivation for making the film, how the movie was shot, and the experiences of the camera crew that filmed the suicides. There are few films in which the crew is as interesting as the subject, but the moral conflicts and heartbreaking moments the filmmakers went through are fascinating and riveting for the entire run-time of this extra. In no way will you envy a single person involved in this movie.
The film's theatrical trailer, which is understated and beautiful, is included on the disc, along with a PSA for a suicide prevention hotline, featuring one of the film's subjects.
The Bottom Line
Once you get past the lurid topic of the film and the voyeuristic feelings created by watching people end their lives, you are left with a gorgeous and well-crafted documentary about the effects of suicide on the people left behind. It's definitely not the dark, exploitative examination of death that some might have expected. The DVD looks and sounds very nice, and though the extras are light, the featurette is a perfect supplement for the film, and stands on its own as a highly interesting piece. Thanks to an approach that's even-keeled and gentle, this movie is accessible to anyone mature enough to want to explore what happens when people choose to die, in about the most intimate way possible.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or his convention blog called Conning Fellow
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.