It's been a couple weeks since I caught the last half of the film "The Bridge" on IFC, but it's haunting and disturbing images mixed with the extreme beauty of the San Francisco bay area and (the title's source) the Golden Gate Bridge along with the knowledge that this was a documentary -- and nothing was fake, it was all real -- made this film an extremely surreal experience that I've not been able to get out of my head.
Inspired by a New Yorker story, "Jumpers," written by Tad Friend, director Eric Steel decided to train cameras on the Golden Gate Bridge over the course of 2004 to capture the people who attempted to leap off the famed structure, the site of more suicides than anywhere else in the world.
The documentary's primary subjects all struggled with mental illness, including severe depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorders, and the documentary struggles to understand their illness while illuminating the anger and hurt of their loved ones.
If you do decide to watch this film. Know that you'll never -- never -- be able to look at the Golden Gate Bridge the same way again. I know that it'll take a long time for the images of people falling -- jumping -- from the bridge to dim. Those images will never fully darken into obscurity.
Though the camera crew worked with a set of guidelines, including that they would call in someone they thought was going to jump, the documentary still includes lengthy footage of the moments leading up to and including the suicides, so discretion is advised for sensitive viewers.
The film does do a very good job in dealing with an extremely delicate subject and presents the subject matters -- suicide and mental illness -- in a non-trivial manner. Thus maintaining the delicate balance of being able to discuss the topic without beating your head in with it or using poor humor to "lighten" the topic like so many other shows have done in the past.
This film presents it's material, allows those connected to the events to give their input, and leaves the viewer with the task of internally resolving what has just been witnessed.