_The Bridge_ was inspired by a 2003 New Yorker article called "Jumpers" by Tad Friend.
The most disturbing, and the most controversial, aspect of the film is that you witness actual suicides as they take place. Steel was able to capture nearly all the suicides that took place in 2004 by setting up cameras and letting them run. Steel then interviewed friends and family members of people who jumped. What emerges is a story about intense pain and desperation, people who felt they were somehow on the outside of life. What also emerges is a story about the rest of us who really don't want to know about such things because they bring us pain.
It's been nearly week since I saw the film, and I'm still haunted by the images, the people. I can't shake the thought that I witnessed their last act. One of them was a young man named Gene. I keep seeing him in my mind's eye, walking up and down the railing, his long black hair flying in the wind, waiting, searching, for the right moment to jump.
This, of course, is Eric Steel's intent: I'm not supposed to be able to shake the images. I'm supposed to be disturbed by them.
Watching, I thought of W.H. Auden's poem, "Musee des Beaux Arts":
About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters; how well, they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening
a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.
In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.
Steel wants viewers to make the connection to Auden's poem, I think. The spirit of the poem is suggested in the imagery several times. Steel shows us that suffering takes place all around us. Yet we don't notice because we have "somewhere to get to." We sail "calmly on."
If you're looking for light entertainment or factual documentary, this film is not for you. I love dark themes and thought-provoking material, and I don't think anything else I've ever seen matches the intensity of this film. _The Bridge_ will encourage viewers to think deeply about artistic and social responsibility. And the film will engage you in a little known or thought about aspect of life.