EUFF 2013 Film Review: Suicide Room (Sala Samobójców)
Polish Director Jan Komasa’s third feature length film, Suicide Room, combines two elements prevalent in present day teenage society—the obsession with suicide and the Internet. Dominik Santorski (Jakub Gierszal) is a high school boy who seeks solace online after an incredibly embarrassing incident with a classmate goes viral and causes him to become a subject of public ridicule. He meets Sylwia (Roma Gąsiorowska), a girl fixated on suicide, through the comments section of a self-harm video she had posted, and they grow closer through long webchats and time spent together in a place called ‘Suicide Room’ of a 3D social network. As the two bond, Dominik begins to neglect the other aspects of his life and remains locked up in his room to be with her. When his often absent parents finally take notice of their son’s erratic behaviour, their love is challenged by the prospect of his gradual descent into madness.
The film effectively captures the essence of a teenager’s struggles in a society where the Internet is as harmful as it is useful. There is a rawness that enriches its genuineness, where Gierszal manages to submerge the audience into his world as it violently spins out of control, and the line between the virtual world (represented by 3D animation) and reality begins to blur. Dominik’s story brings us on a journey of self-doubt and moral questioning when under peer pressure, showing us the adverse effects of someone who is unfortunately connected to people by broken and abnormal ties.
Komasa also manages to tackle a spectrum of societal issues. Suicide and self-harm is shown to be fetishised by the characters in the film—individuals fawn over the concept of death by one’s own hands despite eternally hesitating to do so. The idea of social stigma present through mental illness is also explored, where Dominik’s wealthy high society parents are somewhat ashamed of his depression. They see this as a poor reflection of themselves as parents who are burdened with the responsibility of raising their child to be a person comprised of academic achievements. Though the themes are presented in a very forthright manner, it remains tasteful and true to is message.
However, there are moments where the film leaves pockets of time unfilled and the jump between significant turning points is rather jarring. Intentional or not, it does add a layer to the sense of loss of a right mind, but can also cause an emotional disconnection from the audience.
Suicide Room is definitely a controversial piece of work, from its messages to its medium, visually and thematically confronting viewers to adapt as it slowly manifests to be something of great thought value. It is upheld by the stellar performances by its talented cast and its imaginative animated scenes.
Text by: Jillian Tan
*Images courtesy of EUFF 2013
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