LA MÁXIMA LONGITUD DE UN PUENTE / BIG BRIDGE
Directed by Simón Vélez
REVIEW BY ALEKSANDAR HEMON
The opening shot of Simon Velez Lopez’s Big Bridge (La maxima longitude de un puente, Columbia, 2018) is worth price of admission: a low-angle shot of a bridge under which a river rushes, fascinating unto itself, but we then notice a figure walking up a suspended cable of the bridge, and it seems the person--William, the main character, as it will turn out--has emerged from the mountain in the background. He then jumps into the water, and remerges. It is a masterful opening, as the theme of the film--the joy of gratuitous courage and transgression, not unlike love--is announced, as is its impressive visual style.
The film believes in and relies on its images: the first of the very few spoken lines are uttered only midway through the movie and are part of the conversation in which William and his girlfriend Gina fantasize about a life featuring houses, private airplanes and going to Chile. By that time, the lovers’ relationship and disposition is fully established, not least in a short scene where they dance to The Stranglers’ Midnight Summer Dream, which opens with the lines: Woke up on a good day/And the world was wonderful.
But William and Gina’s primary project is their love--that is, living in the unlimited present moment, which requires violating various moral precepts and laws. Thus William leaves a motorist lying on the side of the road to steal his bike; the lovers break into a wealthy house, and take pictures of it. They swim in an Edenic mountain jungle pond, in which context Gina’s laughter sounds like a peel of heaven.
Short as it is (13minutes) Big Bridge manages to pack a narrative of lovers, raised above common moral practices by the unimpeachable absoluteness of their love, on a roadtrip (or on the run) to a different, if impossible, life. It is a familiar narrative trope, most memorably explored in American movies like Bonnie and Clyde (Arthur Penn, 1967) or Badlands (Terrence Malik, 1973), and most recently Queen and Slim (Melina Matsoukas, 2019). But in these American movies, the lovers on the run end their run in death. The implication of such narrative closure is the kind of love that can only exist beyond the limitations of morality simply cannot survive in this world. What is underpinning that idea is a fundamentally puritan notion that the wages of sin (love) is death.
Though Big Bridge reminded me at moments of Badlands, not least in the way it locates its characters in the natural landscape, Velez Lopez’s film not only stops short of punishing the lovers, but it pretty much eliminates the lovers’ crime/sin. Spoiler alert: The biker who seemed to have been killed by William, gets up and walks away, without any visible damage or anger. The lovers enjoyed a sublime day of love at no high cost, and the movie subverts the expectation of tragic resolution in its anticlimactic coda. Big Bridge is a beautiful and smart work of a talented filmmaker.