Director: Eric Steel
Writer: Tad Friend
This is a documentary exploration about the mythic beauty of the Golden Gate Bridge, the most popular suicide destination in the world, and those drawn by its call. Steel and his crew filmed the bridge from two separate locations during daylight hours for all of 2004 and thereby recording most of the two dozen deaths in that year (and preventing several others). They also taped interviews with friends, families and witnesses, who recounts stories of struggles with depression, substance abuse and mental illness.
Before watching this, the thing that I remember foremost about Golden Gate Bridge in San Fransisco would be that scene from the film 'Vertigo'. The bridge was opened in 1937 and recorded approximately 1200 deaths by 2003. Apparently its death toll has since been surpassed by Nanjing Yangtze river bridge with more than 2000 deaths by 2006. For Golden Gate Bridge, the fall is around four seconds long and you will reach 120 miles per hour by the time you hit water after the 245 feet fall and is equivalent to the force of a speeding truck hitting a concrete wall. It holds a fatality rate of 98% which makes it attractive for those want to commit suicide.
Some of the people, who were filmed jumping by the makers and died, were with mental problems and others were dealing with things like depression, alienation and just plain desire to die. There is one guy whose life is recounted by a family friend. His single-mother had contemplated abortion when she had him but decides against it since she thought that the kid will tide her over her own depression. When the mother died after suffering from cancer, this guy saw it pointless to continue with his life and communicates the same to their family friend who is recounting this. This is the only instance in the film where there is matter-of-factness about the whole thing and rest of the stories are the typical ones you hear. There is stigma attached to suicide in the society and a sense of bitterness by surviving acquaintances as if it is a crime against them. It is an extremely predictable reaction because all these feelings come up because you tend to empathize, sympathize, get angry, guilty etc from a selfish point of view. You feel pain when you see someone suffering because you put yourself in that position. Most things happen from a selfish point of view.
Overall the documentary is a very good watch in the surreal sort of sense. I found the first half of it more interesting as I wasn't sure about the theme of the documentary. The second half features story of someone surviving the fall and also some garden variety suicidal stories which I didn't find that interesting. The last sequence of the film is the one they captured best on film and also the coolest jump out of the lot. This guy with long hair is featured through out the film with him walking on the bridge. Some have criticized the film for its snuff factor but I don't think it is a valid criticism. The crew had made their motivation for filming a secret from the officials and avoided any sort of publicity. You have the freedom to make art out of anything and the film is poetic and disturbing at the same time and makes for a very surreal watch. I have always felt that jumping out of heights is a good way to die as you do enjoy an exhilarating free-fall as a bonus feature.
|“||Why he chose the bridge? I don't know… Maybe he just wanted to fly one time.||”|
—Caroline Pressley, Gene's friend