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Suicide Club - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Jisatsu skuru

Japan 2001

Drama, Thriller, Horror

Sion Sono

Ry Ishibashi
Masatoshi Nagase
Akaji Maro
Sayako Hagiwara
Yko Kamon
Maiko Mori
Takashi Nomura
Tamao Sat
Mai Hosho

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Suicide Club

aka Suicide Circle

Story: In Japan 54 schoolgirls jump in front of a train without any apparent reason. The mass suicide makes giant waves and soon the rumor spreads among teenagers that there is a "suicide club". Kuroda (Ry Ishibashi) leads the investigation along with his colleagues Shibusawa (Masatoshi Nagase) and Murata (Akaji Maro), but they can't do much when it comes to suicices even if they assume such alarming proportions as in this case. However, when more suicides are committed and a roll of skin tissue turns up which belongs to the already dead girls but also to several other unknown individuals, the police continues their investigation. It seems that there is no link between the people committing suicide, though. It rather appears to be a new fad to take your own life. Helplessly the detectives have to watch the victims pile up until one day someone contacts them who has found a website on which the suicides are counted. However, the counter changes even before the police knows of any new suicide cases...

Review: It has been years ago that I first watched "Suicide Club". A lot was difficult to comprehend, too surreal in order to be really tangible. But one thing I was already sure of back then. I would have to watch that movie a second time. What has changed with the second experience of this movie? Nowadays Sion Sono has earned international attention thanks to movies like "Love Exposure" and counts among the most interesting filmakers of Japan. Even back then in "Suicide Club" it becomes apparent why that is the case. Sion Sono carves himself deep into the soul of the viewer with his nightmarish and beside that also mesmerizing pictures. That many of the puzzle pieces won't fit together almost seems to be on purpose, but for all the justified criticism you still get an extraordinarily exceptional, controverse and fantastic movie here.

Suicide Club - Film Screenshot 11

There are only few films that manage to shock you so deeply that there is still an echo resonating within you long after the credits have rolled. The collective suicide of the girls on the platform surely makes this movie count among them, though. Director Sion also enjoys depicting exaggerated violence. In the further developments of the movie there are some pretty bloody scenes to be seen, too. But what's really shocking is to watch teenagers throw away their lives as a matter of course, as if they would just brush their teeth after getting up. The suicide wave that spills across the whole country seemingly can't be stopped. Just like the newest fad teenagers can't fight. If you don't join in you simply don't belong to the group.

Suicide Club - Film Screenshot 12

The socio-critical tone of the movie is unmistakable despite all the gruesomeness and within the stylistic mix Sion delivers it is constantly accompanied by a wink as well. However, it's a wink that is painful because we are forced to look into a mirror. Ever-present is the fictitious teenie-band "Dessert" whose songs start to become real earworms in the movie over time. Girls between the age of twelve and thirteen that move like women and are part of a giant cash cow. That even housewives are eventually becoming fans of the group is self-evident. Peer pressure. But even the viewer can't help but to develop a liking to the songs. At the end they even bestow a very bitter note upon the movie's drama with their cheerful tunes. But even in other places music is playing a major part, at one point the film almost looks like a musical.

The story of "Suicide Circle" is very complex, but towards the end it loses ground. Up until that point you are captivated by a very nicely woven detective story, but eventually, admittedly also a bit ineptly, criticism on modern society is thrown around. Sometimes the film also has some philosophic touches. As already stated this isn't really a surprise regarding the movie's nature that's becoming more and more surreal towards the end. But what are the answers to the countless questions raised? That's not easy to say and Sion Sono somewhat leaves us hanging - or that's how you may feel. Accordingly, there is also some frustration building up. Anyway, in its center "Suicide Club" wants to deal with an existentialist question - that is for certain.

Suicide Club - Film Screenshot 13

The suicide series goes on and on and you start asking yourself what all those meaningless deaths are about! Besides being a scathing satire on Japanese pop culture the director is also picking up the topic of the extremely high suicide rate among teenagers in Japan. There is no denying that Sion loses his way towards the end and almost maneuvers himself into a wall, but at that point he has already emotionally involved the viewer in such a fashion that you can easily forgive him this shortcoming. If someone had told me before that a director who started with gay porn would nowadays shoot some of the most outstanding movies, I would have made the same face of disbelief I displayed after having watched "Suicide Club" for the first time. An unusual horror drama full of surrealism and music, which may not be to everyone's taste, but which even years later still manages to deeply impress und move me.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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