A splash, quite unnoticed, this was Icarus drowning


The controversial 2006 documentary "The Bridge" captured footage of people jumping to their deaths from the Golden Gate Bridge

Tens of thousands of people commit suicide every year in the United States, and in the year 2004, 24 of those people committed suicide by jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. The fall is roughly 4 to 7 seconds, at an estimated velocity of 76 miles per hour (edit: I originally said 120 miles per hour, it’s actually 120 kilometers per hour). Most people either die on impact, or are sucked under by the current of the frigid water in the bay below. The magnificent architecture of the bridge has an undeniable romantic allure, and the structure looks absolutely mythical when encroached by fog. It’s easy to see why it’s such a popular spot for suicide: it’s incredibly public, it’s a beautiful piece of architecture, the scenery of San Francisco is gorgeous, and for a brief span of about 5 seconds, you can fly. It’s exceedingly difficult for me to write on this topic, especially since the movie delves so well into the minds of those who are stranded on the shores of despair, left peering over the red-orange steel railing of the bridge to the churning waters below. Most people who decide to jump from the bridge have probably been metaphorically peering over that railing for years before climbing over the bar. The documentation of human death is quite obviously a queasy subject for most people, we see our own mortality reflected in the final moments of another human being, we can see the moment when the light flickers out, and it chills us to the bone. There is nothing good or galvanizing or romantic about it. All we can do is react with horror, hypnotized by the sight of a living, breathing thing crossing over right before our eyes. That is part of what “The Bridge” does to its audience. It does so tastefully, this is not a snuff film, though it does depict human death. It’s getting late, and I should try to get some sleep. More on this film tomorrow night when my thoughts are properly gathered.


~ by frankmc5 on November 13, 2010.

2 Responses to “A splash, quite unnoticed, this was Icarus drowning”

  1. Thank you for the heads-up on this thought-provoking film, Frank. After my own viewing, I was in tears by the time the list of jumpers’ names scrolled down the screen. As someone who very narrowly survived a suicide attempt a few years ago, the empathetic reactions of friends and family as to what the jumpers must have been feeling to reach such a decision resonated deeply with me. There was a surprising lack of judgment in their words, something most suicidal people don’t often receive. It was a refreshing element in an otherwise emotionally-heavy film. It wasn’t an easy watch, but I’m certainly glad I took the time to view it just the same. Thanks again for discussing it.

  2. Thank you for your brave comment. I was also very impressed and deeply moved by the non judgment of the loved ones of the jumpers, and I think I cried the hardest when, at several points, many of them said things to the effect of “we just told them to at least say goodbye before they went”. It’s a difficult film for me to discuss as well, and I think it’s a difficult film for a lot of people to deal with, but it’s absolutely worth seeing.

    One positive story for those who haven’t seen the film yet: the woman in the above picture was saved when she was pulled up over the ledge by the photographer who took the picture. He didn’t realize what she was doing at first, and when he did realize what was happening he was frozen by the thought, but thankfully he reacted in time and pulled the woman up, brought her to the ground and kept her there until the police arrived. The woman was hesitating, crying on the ledge, so it’s quite fortunate that he came along when he did.

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