The Bye Bye Man
The Bye Bye Man is the kind of film that is so boring and bereft of anything of possible interest that it becomes infuriating.
It's an awesome sight from up there, the wind and dizzying height halting your breath as you gaze across the strait. The sun makes silver ripples on the churning blue-green water and the horizon glows blindingly bright at the time of day when the sky and the sea converge. The cliffs, crinkled with shadows, form a paradisiacal gateway. And then, in the periphery, there's a tiny momentary rupture in the mythical postcard landscape. A small white splash flickers in the water. And in the great bright cacophony of the scene, Icarus disappears beneath the surface.
That's a description of Peter Breughel's painting, "Landscape with the Fall of Icarus," and William Carlos Williams' poem by the same name, intermingling with images from Eric Steel's "The Bridge," a film about 24 deaths and one survivor in a year in the life of San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. "The Bridge" consciously invokes Brueghel, and after I'd watched the movie and looked up the painting again, hundreds of images of the Golden Gate from "The Bridge" (and my memory) came rushing back to me, as though projected at high speed over Breughel's canvas. Each small white splash, of course, marks the end of a life.
In the United States, about 30,000 people kill themselves every year, almost twice as many as kill one another. The Golden Gate Bridge, where 20-plus people jump to their deaths every year, holds a special place in our national (and cinematic) imagination -- and not just as a spectacular feat of engineering. Most die on impact; others are dragged under by the chilly currents. According to a title at the end of "The Bridge": "More people have chosen to end their lives at the Golden Gate Bridge than anywhere else in the world."
Eleven men died building what was the world's largest suspension bridge when it was completed in 1937. Since then, it's estimated that more than 1,300 have leaped to their deaths from the span, and only 26 jumpers (including a young man interviewed in the film) have survived the 4-second, 220-foot, 75 mph plunge.