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It's interesting where people choose to target their criticism of this
film. Whether the director was there with his camera or not, the
individuals would have done what they did. If setting up a camera to
record the acts is morally questionable, is talking about it? Reporting
it? Discussing it? It's clear that many don't want to face this issue
for a variety of reasons that are both universal and specific to the
Bay Area. Suicide is a difficult subject and whatever your point of
view"it's a sin" or "it's a release"the interviews that the director
exacts from survivors (in every sense of the word in one case) are the
real soul of this movie.
People don't want to talk about it and communities don't want to take responsibility for those faced with mental illness. In the Bay Area there has been a controversial proposal to fence the Bridge so that it won't be so "easy" for the suicidal. This film makes it clear there's nothing easy about jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge.
The film doesn't raise the barricade controversy and the fact that there are patrols on the Bridge to identify those at risk. I think that was a wise choice because what the movie ends up being about is the sad, horrifying fact that those who leave their families or friends (or their communities at large) leave misery and apprehension and doubt. Perhaps, that's the point. Unable to cope with their own internal conflicts, they transfer it to others.
I don't remember a work of art dealing with the subject in such a direct manner leaving out psychological justification and medical terminology so we could pretend ignorance. From Shakespeare to Thelma and Louise, in our culture there's a false honor given to suicide. This movie makes it very clear that no honor or relief is ever the consequence of self-destruction.
The beauty of the area is so compelling here and the photography is just sensational. The opening sequence in particular, intercutting windsurfers with views of the subject, both the Bridge and a jumper.
As well, the range of people interviewed (casual witnesses, rescuers and the grim faces of family members and friends) is quite astonishing. Just when my gut would relax and I gained some composure, another sequence would start the dreadful realization that more agony was coming, more lives brutalized.
I found all aspects of this movie exceptional. Those interviewed, I hope, feel well treated by the film. I felt like there was great sensitivity and protection offered by the director. No one is blamed. There is no agenda for fences or better parenting or increased funding for mental health. The cinematography extraordinary. The soundtrack was perfect with the exception of the final song. It didn't have the weight of what preceded it. I'm not sure anything could have captured in summary what we had just seen.
I did find it hard to watch. Whether I needed to see it is debatable. But I certainly won't fault the filmmakers for doing it. Will it draw more people to jump? That remains to be seen. Will it stop anyone from jumping? I don't think so.
The film exposes the negligence we have towards those who want to die and how threatened we are by their state of mind. In one long anguished monologue, a woman reveals what she wished she would have done the night a friend said goodbye. I hope her message doesn't get lost in the hoopla about footage of people jumping or how the camera came to be set up that year. In agony, the woman states she will never ignore another person's need for help out of embarrassment for herself or embarrassment for the person making the threat. She will act to intervene the next time. And so will I.
This film's got a lot of publicity due to the controversial nature of a
small amount of its content - namely people jumping from the bridge.
There is so much more to this film than that.
Yes, its shocking, yes its heartbreaking but by talking to the families and friends of the jumpers there is a tremendous insight into the true ramifications of suicide. Some families/friends come to terms with it, some don't. Some realise that their friend/relation is now at peace, while some are angry at the selfishness of it. I found a lot of the film life affirming, it also features a survivor and someone who was rescued at the last moment. This really isn't a ghoulish film.
It's an excellent documentary that makes no judgements. All it does is spotlight something in society that we don't like to talk about in an intelligent, compassionate and unbiased way. There is so much more to this film than just the shock value, hopefully people will see that.
For what its worth I felt that by deciding to take their own lives in a public forum the jumpers had forgone the right to privacy in their final moments. I didn't feel like a voyeur. I recommend this film very highly.
Initially this documentary hit the headlines with complaints of the
company that own the Golden Gate Bridge stating they were deceived that
the director and his crew were filming "Great American Landmarks" and
that they were merely filming stock footage for the project. I believe
this is an acceptable lie, being that if someone posed you a question
asking if they could film your property because of the notoriety of the
popularity of it as a suicide spot, you would decline the offer! That
aside, this documentary does feature real deaths and (in the press
screening I attended in the UK) they are uncensored-albeit a large
splash rather than blood splatter, which is not brilliant viewing
material for those of weak dispositions, but does cause very
interesting discussion points around the reason as to why those who
choose to jump do so. We are subjected to watch a number of jumpers of
various ages plunge the four seconds to their death by means of a
hand-held camera from a distance. As filmmakers, a moral question is
raised as to why they just filmed the jumpers and didn't prevent it
from happening. My understanding of this is that the director did
actually prevent the majority from jumping (evident in the film) but
others were simply too quick to save. One of the witnesses interviewed
from the reported 100 hours + of film stock, actually comments as to
why he photographed a woman about to jump before attempting to save
her. He says that any nature film cameraman would carry on filming,
even if a tiger was running straight at them as a) objectively this
makes brilliant aesthetics for the finished product and b) looking upon
any act through a viewfinder makes any event slightly unreal and
psychologically you are compelled not to anything until 'reality' slaps
you in the face! Watching the documentary some of the suicides
(especially those shot static, long distance) look like they were
captured 'by accident'.
The witnesses interviewed in the film, including some of the jumper's parents and close family, are very brave to give their thoughts and opinions as to why they believe the jumpers committed the final act. As an audience we feel every emotion conveyed by their friends and family. The interviews and deaths are intertwined with montage of beautiful shots of the bridge showing it as a very romantic setting, not too dissimilar to the Humber Bridge in Hessle (near Hull), England-which is also notoriously known for it's high suicide rates, but what the Humber estuary lacks is the sheer awe of the surrounding landscape and slightly better achievements of engineering. A gradual picture is built up of the bridge, we see it objectively, as a constant unchanging structure ruling the landscape it inhabits. We are shown the bridge by day and by night, during busy summer periods, during misty autumn and winter mornings, as a tourist hot-spot; thousands of tourists walking across it, people playfully mimicking jumping from the bridge or hanging from it to scare their friends, visitors painting it, as a working bridge; workmen climbing it for maintenance and drivers going to and from work. The observation is clear and obvious, again touched upon by the interviewees, the jumpers (like everyone else) are wooed by the sheer beauty of the bridge.
The only flaw in the film is that there is no expert witness (i.e. a psychiatrist or doctor) interviewed which would solidify the documentaries main objective at focusing on mental illness as the reason for getting to the point of giving up and as a by product, tarnishing a beautiful setting.
On a positive note the filmmakers do not romanticise the jumpers in any way, we are merely observing how people fall, (all individual styles), even if we are made to keep returning to one particular person, Gene, a little too often. Also, one the key interviewees has the power to make you laugh and make you cry within an instant and it is this person who gives the strongest arguments towards the reasons for why the jumpers do it.
As a whole, the film does actually achieve what the director supposedly made the owners of the bridge initially believe he was making in the first place-document an important historical American landmark as a living entity! The main focus, however, falls (no pun intended) onto the jumpers that dwell on the bridge. There is a fitting tribute to the jumpers at the end, all being credited by individual name and when they jumped during 2004.
This documentary is plainly and simply a year in the life of a bridge. It should be viewed by all as it is an interesting (if only scratching the surface) piece on the subject of mental illness. It is refreshing to view an unbiased documentary like this (such as Grizzly Man), in an increasingly politically motivated documentary age (Inconvenient Truth, etc). Maybe the reason why this is hitting the headlines is because the truth scares. If any change is to be made, it is the safety barrier of the walkway, although this is NOT suggested once in the film.
Several reviewers have criticized this film for its moral/ethical
bankruptcy. They point out that if film crews were at the Golden Gate
Bridge monitoring jumpers and filming them (often from multiple
cameras), they could have done more to prevent the tragedies. If you
take that approach to watching this film, you will certainly be
But I don't believe it was the intent of the filmmakers to make any sort of moral/ethical statement. Rather, they simply present us with an eye through which we see what happens in the world. It's no different from a National Geographic special which tracks a leopard stalking some unsuspecting gazelle and the bloody carnage that ensues. Should the camera crews be criticized for not warning the gazelle?
OK, enough of the ethical debate. Chances are, if you're prepared to see live footage of people jumping off bridges, you won't get too bent out of shape at the underlying morality (or lack thereof). Let me just say that it was tastefully done--or as tastefully as you can do a subject like this.
Interviews with well-spoken, competent individuals added a refreshing, "scientific" approach to this highly emotional subject. Yes, family members and close friends are interviewed, but (unlike Fox News et al) we don't get the hysterical, weepy ad hominem clips. Instead we get very lucid and enlightening insights as spoken by the people who knew the victims well. Overall, it presents a compelling point of view, far more provoking than the usual "suicide is evil, and all suicidal people are losers" mantra which we often hear. If you are a psychology student or if you are in some way familiar with severe depression, this is a great film to watch. It documents the last hours of those who have truly gone to the extreme of mental anguish. This subject has been taboo for centuries, and I'm not quite sure why. But I'm glad to see that films like this are bringing it into the open.
MY ONLY CRITICISM: While most "jumping" scenes were handled well, there are a few which I found a bit tacky. This was due to the camera work being a bit too greedy. When the individual climbs onto the ledge, suddenly we see the camera jockeying into position as if to get the best view of the fall. Sometimes the overzealous camera operator jumps the gun and pans down to the water far ahead of the body. This comes across as just a tad bit bloodthirsty. But hey, I guess I'd get a little excited behind the lens, too.
But really that's a minor criticism. In contrast, I have to praise the film for being professionally done, even with a decent musical score (not too sappy, not too sterile). But really it's the objectivity and lack of obvious bias which makes it a great documentary, something which Michael Moore could learn a lot from (sorry, someone had to say it). Also, just because it's a documentary, don't expect that it'll be linear and boring. The filmmakers were very adept at weaving suspense and an underlying drama which culminates with a truly stunning climax at the end. I must applaud this film on both an academic and an artistic level.
This movie should be seen by anyone and everyone who has ever had a
suicidal thought. I live in the Bay Area and find the magic of the GG
Bridge inspiring. I am also a survivor of two people who committed
suicide and I find it most amazing how from scene to scene you can not
tell what is going to happen. Why this bridge draws lost souls is still
a question to me, but even more so is why we never know. A person
walking along the bridge quietly enjoying it's splendor or a suicide
attempt about to happen? No one ever knows.
This is REAL footage along with interviews and story so make sure you are well steeled before watching.
This is the best doco I've seen in years. I know there was controversy surrounding it when it was released, but I don't understand why. The film-maker has managed to paint a 3-dimensional portrait of each and every jumper whose last moments he captured. Interviews with friends and relatives send home the message that no one exists in a vacuum: suicide is not just something a person can do, because it touches on the lives of everyone around them. No one is just a guy who's chosen to jump off abridge: he's a brother, a friend, a son, a lover, a neighbor, etc. It is interesting, too, to hear family and friends of those who chose to jump talking about how they knew something bad would happen, or that suicide had been talked about for a long time. Itsends home the message that, at the end of the day, none of us has the power to stop someone from dying, if dyingis what they set out to do.We may be able to delay it, but we can't stop it.
Eric Steel's little-seen documentary on suicide jumpers off of the
Golden Gate Bridge is so compelling and somehow horrifically
spellbinding in its connection to humanity, and at the same time not
exploitive of the lives lost. Steel is also not out to make some big
answer to suicide, which would be totally futile (he also, wisely,
doesn't include any real "official" types of interviewees like officers
or psychologists). His method is very precise but extremely effective
due to the focus: there's interviews with the late subject's families
and friends, and the bridge itself as an entity unto itself. On the one
hand, there are many visually alluring shots of the golden gate bridge,
shot at different speeds (sometimes regular, sometimes at 16 or less
FPS to give it that faster edge), sometimes in a great fog or looking
at the cars, from below, and in a constant long lens that peers onto
everyone on the bridge, just regular passer-by or one contemplating the
end of one's life, like anything could happen next since it is, in
fact, strikingly idyllic. I'm reminded of Herzog with much of Steels'
visual prowess, especially in the matter of it being something that is
very absorbing in its scenic escapism, but with that the connotation
that there's a very great danger about it too. It's part of this that
lures people in, by the way, with the leaps to their fates.
Yet the stronger emotional impulses in the film remind me more-so of something out of a Bergman film, where psycho-analysis can only go so far, and the general connectedness between human beings is shown to be the most fragile thing in existence. We see the testimonies from those who were close friends, parents, siblings, one who stopped a woman from jumping, and even one who survived the long plunge to the river. They all are not similar, which is a very important point that Steel has here; it's not the simple concept that many people have about suicide which is that the person is a total outsider with no human contact and depressed beyond all reason. Actually, the latter is a big part of it, in many of the stories presented, but it's never as clean-cut as one would assume. There are people who are seemingly happy and then go further and further into feeling as if there is no end, there are others who are, needless to say, clinically insane (or some who, as a given, are looking for attention in a supremely dramatic way). And yet through all of the testimonies, nothing feels forced in what they're saying, and because of the natural explanations and stories told, there's more insight than one might find in someone making grand statements. There's too much grief in these individuals for that, and despite some declarations of religion having something to do with it, what one woman says about her friend jumping about the "romantic" side of it is accurate: it's romantic only for a moment, until the jump comes, which is no fun.
Steel keeps coming back throughout the documentary to the story of Gene, a black-clad long-haired rocker who wasn't perhaps the most hopeless case out of those presented elsewhere in the film, at least at first. It's evocative of the nature of friendship and of trying to understand one another to see how Gene was seen, at first, as being sarcastic with his "I'm gonna kill myself" comments, and only after things start going worse is there a sense of worry (in retrospect, as it is). It's also something of Steel's most controversial choice in the film (controversial among those who criticized the film anyway) to keep cutting back to Gene walking back and forth on the bridge, like and un-like everyone else just going by during the day. So far the viewer has seen sudden plunges from people who only looked over the railing a few seconds before plummeting before someone could stop. Gene, on the other hand, lasts seemingly hours, and Steel never intervenes or stops the filming. This might be, perhaps as indicated by the interviews from his friends and his mother, that he would have found a way to end his life anyway, if not by the bridge. But the contemplation, the staggering amount of information that we're told about Gene as the climax reaches to his plummet, is what makes it such an impact, because of what the bridge itself ends up representing.
The Bridge is also something that, ultimately, could be of some very good use for people who come across it eventually on DVD or on TV. No one can ever completely understand why someone is totally on the path to the ultimate destruction- in this case to nothingness via the landmark and romanticized backdrop from Vertigo- and the film probably only scratches the surface as to why this or why that. But by putting real human beings up on the screen, by having the audience see glimpses of the grief, despair, resentment, and (for some) sense of peace about what has happened to those closest to them, he makes it a testament to the lives that were lost, and still are lost, at such a place as the Golden Gate Bridge. It hopefully, too, may inspire a little extra watch by authorities on those closest to the railings, peering down as if into some abstract abyss.
what brings a human being to intentionally finish his own life, to commit suicide? This documentary deeply analyzes the dynamics that pushed 24 people to kill themselves in 2004, jumping from the icon Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. The movie premiered today at the new Rome Film Festival and I must say I was amazed by the accurate and shocking job the director did, putting a camera for one year long looking the bridge. He achieved a moving documentary that reflects the reality without being pathetic, always balancing the story, without being banal or simply an evil way of being voyeuristic. This movie aims to be almost anthropological in its precision, and really leaves the audience asking questions, they go out of the theatre thinking, and this is a great achievement because the theme itself is more than a taboo. The interviews of friends and parents are beyond easy interpretations, they show how sometimes life can affect human beings and change other people's life, that not always is possible to find the responsibilities or to answer the question:why did he do that? Extremely interesting, strong, but really worth it.
If you have ever stood and looked at the Golden Gate Bridge, you know
its undeniable effect on the psyche. It is an amazing and (for me)
"The Bridge" is a low budget documentary that delicately, yet honestly presents a common occurrence on the bridge: suicide jumpers. Actual footage of several jumpers is shown in the midst of interviews with loved ones trying to make sense out of the senseless.
Effectively, "The Bridge" is tied together by a single story of one individual whose footage is featured through-out the film to be concluded with a quite dramatic sequence.
What I enjoyed most was the interview and story of a young teen boy who decided he wanted to live as he was plummeting to the water below and miraculously survived.
One portion of the film that I would have preferred edited out was the mother and sister of one of the victims. Their interview became obnoxious as the sister kept interrupting the mother.
"The Bridge" dug into me and clenched a nerve. It will stay with me for some time.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Surely the point of any documentary of merit is to reveal the hidden or
disguised truth behind it's subject. The question this film poses on
false advertising is why so many suicides seek out The Golden Gate
Bridge for their final demise. We certainly see the suicides. We live
through the film with a succession of suicide jumpers, filmed either
full on or subverted from the grandeur of the bridge to what looks like
a pin dropping with a quiet splash. A number of friends, relatives
participate in disclosing the sad, usually mentally ill backgrounds of
the dead. There is one young guy who is 24 featured. He survived the
jump, one of very, very few ever to have done so. From the moment he
left those famous red rails he wanted to survive, he said. He managed
to turn his body and enter feet first, 250ft drop, 5 secs, 120mph, he's
underwater and he's thinking ' Am I still alive?' As he rose
frantically to the surface and got his first breath of air he felt what
he thought was a shark at his feet. 'I've survived the bridge and now
I'm going to be eaten by a shark!'he remembers. There was a nervous
laugh in the auditorium at that.' I later found out it was seal. It was
swimming round me in small circles and only that was keeping me afloat.
No-one till the day I die can tell me that was not God.' This kid is
the sort of guy you just want to wrap your arms around and show him
what the world has to offer. A good guy, handsome, smart and humorous.
He is battling schizophrenia and said at the end of his interview,
worryingly: I just want to be normal again. But I know I never will
be.'There was the sad interview with the parents of a young man who
never came back,' sometimes I feel like doing it myself ' the father
says.' I wasn't a bad mother, maybe I wasn't as good as I could've
been, but I wasn't bad ' says the mother he loved, in tears. From the
start of the film to the close, one guy called Gene is featured. Why?
His story was hard to empathize with in that he was forever telling
everyone he was going to end it. If you've ever been on the receiving
end of that, frankly, as his friends say, it gets boring after a while.
But he made good footage, from the opening shots; tall, slim, clad in
black leather, long black hair with black sunglasses, 35 yrs
old,standing looking out over the rails at the water, making final
phone calls, pacing restively, the camera actually following his feet
as he walks his final steps through the rails. He looks like he craves
the dramatic end, then you remember he didn't know it was being filmed.
Much less for his suicide to be filmed. He climbs on the rail. He sits
with his back to the water. He always dragged things out, we are told.
The film ends with him standing bolt upright on the rail. Unlike the
other jumpers, who all faced out to the water, he simply steps back and
the camera tracks his upright, unwavering fall into a watery grave all
the time facing the bridge.
There was silence in the dark auditorium at the end. I left looking at the intensity on some of the faces still sat in their seats and having known a few suicides myself I had a very uneasy feeling.
It's kind of ruined the beauty of the bridge as I found it when I crossed it both ways by foot in '89. I kept thinking I walked right past the spot where this and that guy jumped and that over 300 men and women had jumped since. The director never broadcast his intent for fear that it would encourage jumpers and when they saw what they thought was a potential suicide they alerted the emergency services, so lives were saved. But lots of people lean over the bridge, sit on the rail, laughing, joking, throwing their arms around each other, it's impossible to tell what's going to happen in most cases, something the film makes play on. It's not really a film I'd recommend to anyone to be honest, even if the cinematography is excellent, which it is. It even feels wrong saying that. Ultimately,it doesn't answer the question it poses. It leaves bad images, tarnishes good ones. The question this film poses is why suicides seek out national landmarks, specifically The Golden Gate Bridge, the most favoured suicide spot in the world to end their life. The families interviewed weren't told their loved ones had been captured jumping on film, indeed neither were the authorities, who were told it was a film on 'nature'. The lack of openness with the families smells all wrong. There is, of course, the final and ultimate slight, which is to have filmed the suicides without their permission, having set up their cameras with the expressed purpose of doing so. Like they cared, having gone off a world-famous landmark? Of course they wanted to be noticed, doing it in such a public place? Maybe if the researchers had done their stuff a little more thoroughly they might have discovered why the suicides chose the bridge and what it was about. This film was a gifthorse to the film-maker and has the deep potential to throw up disturbing images to the vulnerable.
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