The Bridge

I recently watched “The Bridge,” the rather controversial 2006 film about suicides on the Golden Gate Bridge. Well, it might not have been that controversial outside of California. Here, a lot of people got riled up because the movie tainted a state landmark, and the filmmaker caught a lot of flack for deceiving the Parks Department about the purpose of the filming. Some people also think that the film crew should have done more to prevent the 23 jumps they filmed in 2004.

It was…an interesting movie to watch. They interspersed cuts of people jumping with idyllic scenes of the Bay and interviews with the families and friends of jumpers. One of the most interesting interviews was actually with someone who survived a jump from the bridge, talking about his thoughts and experiences. The only thing missing was a peppy soundbite from the coroner.

It was odd for me to look at these scenes and think that I used to live in that City, that I looked at the Bridge almost every day when I was out walking. I’ve always found the Bay Bridge much more compelling, personally, but apparently I am one of the few people who thinks that way. I always wondered about the mystique of the Bridge when I looked at it, and thought about how it has become such a readily recognized landmark, so tied in with California’s identity. I mean, everyone knows the Golden Gate Bridge. Heck, I walked across it once in high school. I even peed on it during rush hour due to an emergency situation at one point.

Was the movie exploitative, as some people argue? Well, yes, sort of. One could also argue that National Geographic film crews are exploitative, as well. The movie documented an intriguing social phenomenon, but I’m not sure the film crew did something so terrible. The fact is that all of those people would have jumped anyway, and that their choices had an impact on the lives of others. The movie was about that as much as it was about the jumping.

I sort of felt like the film glorified suicide, and I was disappointed in the lack of any sort of “hey, call this number if you are feeling sad” inclusion in the credits. One interviewee had some angry words about the romanticization of suicide on the Bridge, but it was hard to take seriously with the tragic music and slow motion footage, which seemed to contradict what she was saying. With buildup like that, one can understand how the Bridge would come to be a popular spot for shuffling off the mortal coil.

I think that the most interesting thing was listening to the people left behind, talking about their regrets or justifying their own actions. It really reminded me that it’s so easy to ignore someone in need because you don’t feel like taking action, or you would rather do something else, or you just don’t take them seriously. I thought of the times when people have reached out a hand for help and I haven’t taken it, and I feel a bit ashamed of myself, and glad that other people were there for those people when I was too selfish to do the right thing.

It takes a great deal of bravery to come to the decision to end your life. I think that it also requires a certain amount of unwillingness to compromise, of frustration with living in a world which does not meet your standards. There seems to be a division in this society between those who adapt, and those who don’t. Of those who don’t, only a handful are willing to make a stand, while the rest live in torment and emotional agony. Ultimately, we must all make our own choices, but how disheartening it can feel to be one against the world, and its slings and arrows. I’m not quite sure that the movie really…captured that.

I also thought of all the times when I have asked people for help and been refused, and that made me sort of bitter, inside. I think that it’s very easy for us to make assumptions about other people and their emotional strength, and I’ve always found it intriguing that some people seem to constantly garner attention while others are swept aside because we’re not interesting or attractive or dramatic or compelling enough. Some people, I fear, seem to merit more of an investment of time and energy than others, using a complex rubric which I do not quite understand.

I wonder how many people feel guilty when we dull people finally give up.

[The Bridge]