ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

The Bridge —

The bridge is simply astounding.

I first heard about this documentary about a year ago, in bare terms which you might be first hearing too: a film guy named Eric Steel traveled to San Francisco, got a permit to film the Golden Gate Bridge for a year, and proceeded to do so. What he didn’t explain in his permit was that he was recording suicides. Utilizing a crew that shot every daylight minute of 2004, he captured 23 suicides on camera, then tracked down witnesses, family members and friends and recorded their thoughts on the jumpers’ lives and motivations. He did not tell them he had footage of their final moments.

You are some variation of aghast or intrigued. I was the latter. I also knew how wrong this project could go, or how ham-fistedly it could be handled. Recently, I saw it was on DVD, bought it, and watched it.

The Golden Gate Bridge dominates this film; shot after shot from many places show how the bridge is seen from throughout the landscape near it, one of the wonders of the modern world. You can see what draws people to it, what makes them want to walk across it, what makes it stay in their minds, even as their world grows dark, even as there’s no hope.

I do not think I would be doing this film justice to do some sort of reviewer play-by-play of what goes on in the film and coating it with my thoughts on each little decision, each little branch the film goes. I’ll keep it simple: the stories are real, the people are eloquent, the images are crisp, the emotions you feel are many.

People who make it their stock in trade to complain will complain (and have complained) about all aspects of this film: the subject matter, the ethics, the approach, the editing. This is a film about suicide, and it changed my opinions on the debate to some degree. That is a great film that does this to its audience. And this is a great film.

People will look back many years later and wonder why it was so little heralded, so slighted by its contemporaries.

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  1. Julien McArdle says:

    I actually bought this film two weeks ago, along side with “It’s all gone Pete Tong.” Saw Pete Tong last week, but I had yet to plop The Bridge in my computer to watch it.

    I was meaning to do it, and now you’ve just given me motive to do it sooner rather than later. Thanks.

  2. Flack O'Hara says:

    Got it from Netflix earlier this week per your recommendation. Terrific film. The way the documentary is presented, there are no answers and the viewer is left with an empty void at the end — a feeling I suspect the families of these people experience much more intensely.