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Monday, August 20, 2012

Movie Review: THE BRIDGE


"I don't know why people kill themselves. And yet, it's a small step to empathize... to say... well, because I think we all experience moments of despair."
-- Caroline Pressley

The Bridge is a 2006 documentary directed by Eric Steel that offers a rare insight into the taboo subject of suicide. In 2004, Steel and his crew set up a number of cameras around the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California in order to capture victims of suicide jumping to their deaths. After gaining over ten thousand hours of footage, the crew learned they had caught twenty-three of the reported twenty-four suicides that took place over the course of the year. In the aftermath, Steel and his fellow filmmakers chose to interview the family and friends of the victims in order to gain insight into both the minds of the deceased as well as their own perspectives on the tragic situation. 

Those of you who have been reading my reviews for quite some time may remember my original review of this film nearly two years ago. I had mixed feelings about the film, but ultimately found it to be a hauntingly brilliant look at the thoughts and emotions that come forth at the hands of a suicide. After watching it tonight for the second time, I am reaffirmed in my stance, and I continue to think that The Bridge is one of the greatest - as well as one of the bravest - documentaries ever brought to the silver screen.

I don't think I can get away with saying that yesterday's tragic death of director Tony Scott helped influence my decision to give this film another go-around. Since then, I've heard a lot of people, including some of my readers, question why Scott would choose to take his own life. I've made it no secret that I myself have struggled with depression and mental illness in the past, I can understand just how low a person needs to be to consider this option. Still, it can be mind-boggling for an individual who has never reached that level of despair. 

That's why I think The Bridge is both so beautiful and so important. Through the numerous interviews with family and friends - as well as one with a jump survivor - we as the audience experience the full range of imaginable emotions tied to losing a loved one to suicide. From anger to guilt to acceptance, each interviewee offers another piece of the puzzle. And yet, at the end of the day, the film does not offer any answers, but it never truly sets out to give them.

The Bridge is not a film you're going to enjoy. It's a heart-wrenching look at a very real subject, and it's definitely not for the faint of heart. However, I think the stories it tells are vital to raising awareness for problems such as mental illness. There's so many people in the world who don't understand the concept of depression, and sometimes, it takes a drastic measure for someone to start to think about it. That's not the way the world should be. When I first watched the film in 2010, my closest friend watched it simultaneously from about five hundred miles away, and after finishing the film, we had a chance to discuss it at length. In my previous review, I brought up a number of her comments, and I'd like to bring one back in this review, as I think it sums up my thoughts on the film perfectly: 
I don't think you're supposed to like [The Bridge], but I do think it was beautifully and tastefully done. As beautiful and as tasteful as you can get with suicide, at least.
I don't think I could agree more.

Movie Review Summary
Grade: A
Status: Must-See

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