The Bridge

 

Adapting Tad Friend’s 2003 New Yorker article about the world’s most popular suicide facilitator, the Golden Gate Bridge, New York-based director Eric Steel pledges to enlarge our understanding of a taboo topic. (Steel gained notoriety last year by disclosing his real reason for constant bridge surveillance from cameras he’d stationed at both ends.) But the focus of his documentary is palpably narrow and manipulating; for breadth of reporting and narrative control, The Bridge is hardly its source material’s equal. Instead, the film boasts—and unfortunately that is the right word—a chilling immediacy only available from having cameras ready when people kill themselves. Steel also trades in talking heads (the bereaved, mostly, and one riveting survivor), but many of his copious bridge shots are so tense with anticipation that they distract from what’s spoken. That’s the unresolved danger of dabbling in voyeurism, however nobly intentioned it is: Making us watch makes it hard to listen. Where’s Werner Herzog when you need him?

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