Comment 14910

By Mark Fenton (anonymous) | Posted December 01, 2007 at 10:40:24

Thanks for your insightful question.

When I was a teenager I went to see Saturday Night Fever and loved it. It wasn't so much that I wanted to be a disco dancer, it was more that I loved how the film used the Verazanno bridge as metaphor: Tony Manero's escape from his working class roots to downtown New York City. Like all ways of escape it represents liberty, which is why Tony spends so much time on it. But it's also a place of continuous risk. (His friend falls to his death from it.)

Here is the thematic power-centre of the film, which the dialogue doesn't quite capture so you'll have to imagine John Travolta looking up earnestly at the bridge from under that puffy 70s hair, talking his usual dumb guy dialect. For me it's one of the most beautiful moments in film.

Tony: It's almost three quarters of a million
yards of concrete. That's right.

Stephanie: You know everything about
the bridge, don't you?

Tony: I know everything about that bridge.
Know what else? There's
a guy buried in the cement.

Stephanie: Really?

Tony: Know how it happened?
While they were working on it,
pouring the cement,he slipped off on the upper part of the bridge and, you know, fell in.

I haven't thought about this in years, but that's where I got my excitement for bridges. Around the same time I read Hart Crane's epic tribute to the Brooklyn Bridge as metaphor for the American dream and it didn't touch me at all. I like the purely pragmatic fact of bridges. Even though I take these feats of engineering for granted when I whiz over a half dozen bridges/overpasses on my way to and from work. I think it's good to remember how effortlessly they enable movement and to remember the sheer human cost of making them, and in some cases of moving over them.

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