By Bryan Newbury
August 4, 2007
Most of us remember that jarring nature film moment in our formative years. The one where the film crew flexes its objectivity by choosing not to intervene in the preventable demise of some poor beast caught in the mire. There are a few ways to approach that moment. First, one might set aside the emotional element and take the “scientific” view, that Cartesian cruelty that would make him only observer, never participant. Second, there is the prerogative of the filmmaker, whose intervention would taint the work. Third, that of the human being, aghast at such apathy no matter the means.
Eric Steel’s The Bridge dredges up that conflict in the viewer. Though the plaudits of critics seem to validate views one and two, view three never seems to disappear.
The setting of The Bridge is San Francisco’s Golden Gate. An architectural marvel and national treasure, The Golden Gate Bridge draws shutterbugs and newlyweds from around the world. Unfortunately, such majesty also provides arguably the ultimate means with which to do oneself in. Through just over an hour and a half, the viewer observes along with the filmmaker as men and women brace themselves, hurdle the barriers and plunge to their demise.
While there is much to question in the approach and execution of the film, there can be little argument about the quality of the cinematography. There’s a truism in the photography world that one can’t help but to take a good shot in India. The same could be applied to filming in San Francisco. The seemingly constant fog contrasted with the hours of California sun make for fantastic images, as much for an editor as a cameraman. To seasonal affectives, the atmospheric yo-yo is something out of Dante. If you’re shooting a picture, it is a bounty. This is not to say that Steel & Company don’t display an eye. On the contrary, the viewer ends the film feeling that the same crew could produce a work of stunning imagery in a Dallas suburb. As with any gift, this demands the greatest care not to go around the bend. Sadly, that is just what The Bridge does.
Take the star of the film, Gene Sprague, as an example. Some might recoil at such a designation. In the context of the film, that is precisely how the jumper is treated. Read the rest of this entry »