Eric Steel Explores the Mysteries of Suicide in 2006 Doc ‘The Bridge’

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The Bridge (2006)

Twenty-three people kill themselves on camera over the course of the 94 minutes of The Bridge. Not fictional characters played by actors, but real people hauling themselves up over the chest-high red rail of the Golden Gate Bridge and dropping 245 feet to the frigid chop of San Francisco Bay. It is, on one level, the most picturesque snuff film ever. But there is more to Eric Steel’s controversial 2006 documentary, freshly re-released on DVD by Kino Lorber.

To be sure, there is something voyeuristic, and more than a little morbid, about Steel’s film. In 2004, he hired a brace of camera operators to film the bridge during daylight hours for the entire year. He knew they wouldn’t have to wait long. So many people have jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge over the decades that authorities stopped keeping official count 20 years ago, so as not to encourage more people to do it. But people still do, about every two weeks on average.

In some cases, Steel’s cameras capture them in blurry telephoto images, often pacing back and forth along the walkway for agonizing minutes before finally climbing over—the operator can never keep them in frame as they plunge toward terminal velocity. (Alerts from the film crew and bystander interventions led to several being pulled back, also on camera.) In wide shots that encompass the entire bridge, a few beats may pass before you notice a tiny, haunting splash on the face of the bay.

But Steel also tracked down the families and friends of many of those who jumped, as well as witnesses, and the resulting interviews delve into the jumpers’ lives and the forces that drove them to do it. Lisa Smith, a paranoid schizophrenic, laughed as if with relief before she jumped, according to a witness. Gene Sprague warned friends that he was going to kill himself until no one paid attention to it anymore—and then he did. Some, like Philip Manikow, seemed drawn to the bridge, as if it were destined to be the spot where they took their lives.

While The Bridge offers nothing so neat as “an answer,” it conducts a compelling exploration of the mysteries of troubled souls and the fatal glamour of the place where many of them chose to die.



Late Phases (2014)

Based on the premise alone—werewolf preys on retirement community—Late Phases sounds like cheapo genre garbage. But director Adrian Garcia Bogliano’s last film, Here Comes the Devil, was brilliantly lurid cheapo genre garbage, and the participation of Stake Land star/co-writer Nick Damici and horror mogul Larry Fessenden add further hints of prestige luster. Bogliano errs on the side of revealing his creatures too soon, and too fully, but Late Phases proves surprisingly subtle and compelling in handling its non-furry characters. All this plus Tom Noonan.

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