Thoughts On "The Bridge" By Eric Steel (2006)

This film, inspired by the Tad Friend article of October 15th, 2003 in The New Yorker entitled “Jumpers”, was – in addition to the same article – in turn the inspiration for my current project. I first saw the film in late 2011 and was not instantly drawn to it; nor did I quite understand why Eric Steel would wish to spend all of 2004 with his camera crew recording the Golden Gate Bridge – and 23 of the 24 people who jumped from it that year.

However, I have recently been inspired by the aforementioned Kevin Hines, who survived his own fall from the bridge and is now speaking publicly around the United States about his experience of suicide and suicidal thoughts in addition to mental health as a more broad subject – he, like myself, suffers from bipolar disorder or ‘manic depression’ – in his own attempt to prevent potential suicides from occurring not simply at the bridge but in general.

It is the only common ground between myself and Mr Hines – the mental illness – which has led me to believe it is possible that after my experience of suicide in December 2008, I may be interested in following the same path as he, in the sense that I find it cathartic to speak about my experience and in doing so, I may be able to assist others who have been in the same positions, the same states of being, as myself.

How I would go about bringing this sense of relief to myself – and hope to others, if all goes well – was something I was not quite sure of until recently. However, I believe now (as of September 5, 2012, when I began writing this paragraph) that my intentions are as clear to myself, to me, as they ever will be. My desire is to produce a “The Bridge”-esque documentary, focusing on the victims of suicide and potential victims of suicide at the cliff at Beachy Head, in East Sussex. I would set up camera – with permission if necessary¹ - and continuously record a particular area of the cliffs for a set period of time, with the same aim, in doing so, as Eric Steel and his crew while they were filming the Golden Gate Bridge in 2004. My intention for the film as a whole piece would very clearly be to raise awareness of suicide and its totally preventable nature – citing the number of rescues performed by the Beachy Head Chaplaincy Team and the fact that most rescuees (and survivors, in the case of the Bridge) do not attempt suicide again2 – through the capturing of the human soul at what may be its lowest, most desperate point atop the cliffs at Beachy Head. This being a point I reached myself in 2008 – albeit my suicide attempts were of slightly different nature – I hope to give insight into the mind of the suicidal person, and as stated by Eric Steel, to provoke more open dialogue regarding suicide as a broad issue. Despite the moderate success of “The Bridge” in the US, I do not believe it quite had the director’s desired effect on the general public; instead of provoking more frank and “free” discussion about suicide, I believe there was a backlash – not completely justified – which hindered the potential of the film somewhat from being fulfilled.

Do I think any film I make will be able to eradicate such negative feeling firstly towards it, and secondly towards the open discussion of suicide and suicidality? In a short answer, I do not know.

Putting it more elaborately, I do have doubts regarding the success of whatever I can put together, in any format at all; I believe though that these are simply natural doubts, which are a part of a long-term project such as this. I believe my work has the potential to open up dialogue – public and otherwise – about suicide, but whether it would eradicate the subject’s near-taboo standing in society, of that I am not entirely sure.

That goes for any work produced by anybody, however – I am saying I do not believe anyone could ever completely remove the way in which the subject is seen by the public; instead small steps can be made, towards loosening the grip held tightly on it by the norms and constraints of a society which does not like to speak about such a ‘personal’ and intimate subject.


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