Sunday, July 8, 2007

The Bridge

It's really odd to watch a documentary in which people commit suicide. Even if it's combined with searching interviews with surviving family and friends discussing how each person got to that point, and even if there's somebody who survived jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge, and someone else who stepped in and stopped an attempted suicide, the fact is that the movie is still basically about watching the last moment of some people's lives. It's an extremely strange experience.

The inspiration for the movie was this New Yorker article (which is fascinating) that talks about how many people commit suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. It's a lot more than you'd expect; apparently the bridge exerts some kind of spooky iconic hold on people. Like Theda Bara. So the makers of The Bridge essentially trained some cameras on the bridge and waited for people to jump.

Now, it wasn't a purely voyeuristic endeavor. When they saw someone who was just pacing back and forth crying and glancing over the railing, they'd call the police and tell them to go do something about it. But sometimes, they'd pan the camera past someone just as they were stepping over the railing and all they could do is record the moment.

The interviews with family and friends are really interesting, because most of the survivors seem to have more or less come to terms with what happened. They describe bi-polar disorder and paranoid schizophrenia in interesting and descriptive language. Apparently, the interview subjects didn't know there was footage of their loved ones jumping until much later. I'm not sure how I feel about that. I'm kind of sympathetic to the argument that if someone wants their final act to be a private matter, they shouldn't do it off an enormous public landmark.

So I'm not sure how I feel about this movie. It's quite involving, although it contains a lot of filler of the Sopranos-finale variety. They can get away with showing a lot of footage in which nothing happens because you're aware that at any moment, any of them could be the one who jumps. I'm just not a hundred percent convinced that the movie earns its emotional response honestly.

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