*WARNING - THIS FILM (AND POSSIBLE THIS REVIEW) COULD BE TRIGGERING FOR ANYONE SUFFERING FROM ISSUES WITH SUICIDE. IF THERE IS A POSSIBILITY THE TOPIC WOULD CAUSE ISSUES FOR YOU, PLEASE MOVE ON AND CHECK OUT LESS-HORRIFIC DRAMAS. LIKE IT STARTED WITH A KISS!
The name rather speaks for itself -- although the characters hotly protest the existence of a "suicide club," I'm pretty convinced that it existed. There isn't really a "main character," so it's a little hard to describe but I'll try. Near the end of May 54 high school girls from different schools come down the train stairs to the platform laughing and chatting happily. As a peppy tune plays in the background, they cheerfully grab hands and leap in front of an express train. This is the first of a serious of strange suicides with numbers rising ever higher in number, with dozens and even hundreds killing themselves at a time. The question at first is why do this? Later it becomes who drove them to it? But all the time, you get the sense that the answer doesn't really matter. The real question this film asks is why doesn't anyone really care?
**Please note that I'm not saying I agree or disagree with anything in this film, especially with regards to the reasons and excuses behind suicide. I'm merely attempting to review what I thought the movie tried to say.
Which should I go with? - Mind-Destroying, Heart-Crushing, or Thought-Provoking? I'm sorry folks, I almost couldn't watch this one. To be honest, I'm not all that impressed with myself that I could. What does that say about me? I still skipped past a couple of the more gruesome moments. Just couldn't watch. Thank God, I think if I hadn't been so disgusted I would have lost faith in myself somehow. If you can watch this without feeling horror (and no not the scary kind), then you need to take a good long look at yourself.
What to start with. . . technicalities. Mixed reviews on the acting. It's truly possible that some of the bad acting was intentional -- it actually fit the scenes in some strange way. In most of the movie, the acting was actually pretty good--so I'm a little divided on what to say there. For the time when the film was made, the gore was pretty gory and the blood and guts appropriately freaky. In modern film-making it would probably be considered cheesy, but it successfully wigged me out. I dunno, I'm a little sensitive to this and am easy wigged. All together, I'd say well-made for its era, if perhaps a bit behind the times now.
Now on to the plot! There are only two types of people I can see "enjoying" this film (please don't actually enjoy it--seriously). 1) People who get a perverse kick out of watching people/animals die in gruesome ways and 2) People willing to suffer through the revolting scenes for the sake of a good philosophical discussion. And this was a brilliant film from a "thematical" point of view.
See, the main topic of this film is "suicide" and the various people effected or involved.
It analyzes the victims and the many reasons driving people to this traumatic point of no return--lack of self-confidence, sense of pointlessness, peer pressure, relationship issues, murders disguised as suicide, etc. Even those who seemingly go for no apparent reason whatsoever.
At the same time, intermingled within the plot are the bystanders, families, police responders, and general members of society. The bystanders in the area are horrified by the blood and guts, but quickly return to their normal listless, uninterested daily lives. The film captures so perfectly the modern sense of "unconnectedness" many people feel watching tragic things happen to other people. The police are willing to try, but are not as involved as they should have been given that they are merely "suicides" rather than a crime. The society watching the events unfold show a range of responses from cultish enthusiasm, total disinterest, dispassioned interest, and a passionate desire to become "one of the club." The characters demonstrate both social unconcern about the deaths that are happening and the utter fascination many have with the topic of death and the afterlife. People are concerned about everything except the actual loss that has occurred. Although the "Genesis" scene (you'll see) comes across as mad and rather weird, it is truly a brilliant work of psychological art. It horrifically depicts the psychotic mindset of those people who become so caught up in the "beauty" and "dream-like" view of death's supernaturalism that they have already lost any living humanity.
The movie leaps between extremely realistic and graphic to slightly fantastical and almost in-sensitive. But that simply adds to the theme and the power of its message! For example, the use of cheery, thoughtless, innocent, teenage pop music as the background for many of the more graphic scenes. And the use of children to pose some of the more difficult questions. Suicide is a dark, horrible, destructive event. It is a thing of horror and it is very, very real. But so often we approach the topic or view such events in a distant, unconcerned viewpoint. "Oh, how tragic" as we move on. It's like we are watching a movie that has no impact on our lives and does not affect our own innocence at all. People don't realize the magnitude of what each life lost really means to this world. This film seeks to warn against such hypocrisy. Which is why it pulls in three important messages later in the film.
First is the question "Which death is murder? And which isn't?" That seems to be the ultimate message. Regardless of the reason why people commit suicide, suicide is driven by something. It isn't a random event with no proximate cause. Maybe the victims were murdered by rising, unfixable debt. Maybe it was bullying. Maybe it was the sadistic supporters and encouragers who push them to it. Perhaps it is even self-murder, driven by mental problems or a sense of guilt. Often in the background good men and women ignored the issue until it was too late. Whatever, the reason, they were forced into a point where death was the end result. Anyone contributing to that push to the final end is an active participant.
Second, the question "What is your connection to you." It's true. We may not always be able to stop other people from taking the final step themselves. But we can certainly work to limit the threat to our own futures by finding that "connection" within. This movie asks you to stop looking outside of yourself for completion, mercy, validation, forgiveness, support, and a future. The world may give it to you or the world may not. Fate (and the human race) can be a b****. If you are relying on your answers to life to come from outside, it may never come. I love the part where the kid goes on: "If you die, your connection with your wife will remain. So will your connection with your children. But if you die, you will lose the connection with yourself." That is very, very true. The memories will remain amongst those left alive. They will always remember how important you were and how you changed their lives. Suicide though happens when a person lose that connection with themselves--when they forget how important they and the people in their lives are. Find your value from within and never let it go.
Finally, there is also the fact that we, the viewers watched it. In a way depicting precisely one of the main problems the movie is talking about. Many people have an unhealthy fascination with suicide, almost sadistically intrigued in the topic. Others simply view it with passing notice, as something not affecting themselves and thus unimportant. When there is a murder, we are concerned because of the danger it poses to ourselves. But with suicide the assailant caught themselves and the threat is not there. So we move on, going about our lives as though nothing happened. But, as the kid asks "Why couldn't you feel the pain of others the way you feel your own? . . . You are the true criminal." What if it was your son or high school daughter or wife or husband? Would you feel the same way then?
This film was intended to address a growing problem in the world today. It is no coincidence that it begins with the death of so many young people jumping in front of a train. That is a very, very real threat in Japan. I remember taking the train once in Yokohama, when it stopped. The announcement was that we were being re-directed due to issues with the track. The woman next to me said it was probably "another suicide, whenever we have one, they have to change to another route." Seriously, this happens often enough, there is a standard operating procedure that residents are familiar with? I've seen and felt the effect of suicide myself through the loss of my father. It's a very real issue and I think this film does a great way of capturing all the flaws in the current way we treat this problem.
Is the film bloody? Yes. Is it gruesome? Yes. Is it entertaining? No. Is it something we should enjoy watching? No. But does it offer a good message, one that more people should take a moment and hear? YES.
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