It has been a few weeks since I saw “The Bridge,” and not a day has passed without my thinking of it at least in passing. I live in San Francisco so the fact that I have driven over it a few times, and seen its glorious red gates from my home across the city, help keep the images fresh. I suspect that even if that wasn’t the case this incredibly moving and beautifully shot documentary would still be tugging at me.
Shot over the course of 2004, and inspired by a New Yorker article, “The Bridge” captures actual footage of jumpers hurling themselves over the shoulder high guardrail into the beautiful San Francisco Bay a quarter of mile below. This gripping footage is juxtaposed with breathtaking shots of the bridge captured throughout the year, bathed in fog and soaked in sun, its rusty red gates jutting into a deep blue sky, and sunk into the serene hillsides of Marin and SF’s Presidio. This physical beauty is critical and I think necessary as kind of an emotional breath as Steel diagnoses the bridge’s draw as the suicide capital of the country through a series of incredible moving and revealing conversations with friends and family members of many of the people who died during the year of the film’s shooting. Each of the interviews tends to thoughtfully anticipate most of the questions that I was trying to get my head around while watching.
I left the film not so much depressed, as fascinated and, in some ways, relieved for some of the victims. It is a rare documentary that combines both such sophisticated cinematic beauty with poignant human drama. This film pays sad but worthy tribute to the magnificent bridge that has inspired so much passion over the years.