The Austin Chronicle

The Bridge

Rated R, 93 min. Directed by Eric Steel.

REVIEWED By Josh Rosenblatt, Fri., Jan. 26, 2007

One minute into The Bridge, a rotund, middle-aged man in sunglasses and a baseball cap gazes down from the Golden Gate Bridge and, as casually as if he were stepping out of his own front door, tosses himself over the railing – whoosh! – and flies down, down, down into the choppy waters of San Francisco Bay below. At first, you don’t believe what you’re seeing: “Surely that man didn’t just commit suicide,” you say. “It’s not possible.” But he did; it is. And this is only the first of many such images in The Bridge, director Steel’s stunning documentary about the legendary Golden Gate and the dozens who travel there every year – these pilgrims of doom – to put an end to their lives. Fascinated by an article he read in The New Yorker that claimed the bridge was the most popular spot for suicide in the world, Steel set out to explore the mystery behind the Golden Gate’s hold on the imaginations of the disconsolate, both to give some small voice to their sadness and to put faces to cold statistics. So he set up two cameras near the bridge and kept them rolling during every daylight hour of 2004, catching almost all of the 24 suicides that took place during that year. He then conducted hours and hours of interviews with the people who knew these “jumpers” best – friends, family – and those who didn’t know them at all but whose own stories were now inextricably wrapped up with theirs: the tourists, joggers, and boaters who just happened to be walking, jogging, or boating by when mortality decided to reach out, brush their shoulders, and give them a glimpse into someone else’s beleaguered world. The results are striking: an emotional and aesthetic whirlpool of horror, fascination, beauty (it’s hard not to feel a bit guilty – even morbid - enjoying such beauty), and resignation that would probably drown lesser movies but that gives The Bridge an eerie power. (See Screens feature "The Gate Escape,", for an interview with Steel.)

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