Suicide Club is about an inexplicable rise of suicides, specifically mass suicides, a phenomenon that's not entirely unheard of either. After 54 high school students happily throw themselves in front of a speeding train in spectacularly gruesome fashion, committing a bewildering act of mass suicide, all with no apparent connection to each other, an investigation is opened due to public outcry. In spate of these brazenly public suicides, two detectives are assigned to spearhead an investigation into all these inexplicable suicides that seem to be affecting the youth of Japan. The people committing suicide are not depressed and nor are they particularly dissatisfied in life, by all accounts, they're normal, healthy people.
Early on in the investigation, the detectives are tipped off to a bizarre website that's been predicting the number of suicides before they happen, even down to their gender, and they're soon forced to question if the suicides really are voluntary, or if there are external forces at work that might just take the form of a preteen girl pop band called the continuously misspelled 'Dessert'? With the detectives feeling increasingly helpless to predict and stop these nonsensical suicides, perplexed and frustrated at how exactly they're supposed to stop these suicides from happening, when they can't even understand why they're happening. Anyone who's lost a friend to suicide has surely felt these things before, failure, blame, frustration, mystification, and has asked themselves, 'why couldn't I see it coming?'. I think Suicide Club tries to answer that question, or at least tries to raise that question in a society where suicide is a complicated thing.
Suicide Club has a strangely surreal and bizarre tone and atmosphere, often jumping from striking realism and authenticity with its gritty and almost dirty handheld cinematography that makes the movie look older than it should, to these weird, supernatural, and almost trance-like moments that are scattered throughout the movie. It's a balance that doesn't quite work for me, the supernatural elements often undercut what I thought the point of the movie was, convoluting what was in reality a fairly simple message with too many extraneous and obtuse subplots. Suicide Club is, at its core, an indictment against conformity in a society where individualism is not emphasized or encouraged. Without giving too much away, take the girl at the end, she refused to conform to the herd mentality, despite being physically linked to other girls in a most grotesque way.
I think there'll be a lot of different interpretations of Suicide Club, without one interpretation being the 'right' or 'wrong' one. Take the girl band 'Dessert', who we're led to believe is subliminally inciting suicidal tendencies in the neglected youth of Japan. What is dessert? It's sweet and satisfying, sure, but it's also a short-lived and superficial satisfaction. Is that name a reflection on how modern Japanese society has become? Constantly craving instant gratification, yet never achieving any sense of long-lasting satisfaction? I think that's a part of it. The Kubrick inspired 'Genesis' fellow seemed to be an unnecessary subplot, but I think he was there to show how quickly people can be attracted to every new fad like bees to honey, and how someone will inevitably take it to the next step, or warp it, depending on your point of view. It all gets very existentialist towards the end, with a lot of talk about our 'connections' to the world and our friends and family, so why keep on living they ask. These are some of the surreal aspects of Suicide Club, with these little brats knowing way too much.
Suicide Club was made when Japan was experiencing a national high of over 30,000 people committing suicide per year in the mid 90s too. So I see Suicide Club as being an exploration of the root cause of suicide, or at least how the director (Sion Sono) sees it anyway. Suicide Club is macabre, disturbing and definitely controversial, but it was also a brave and daring movie to make, although it's probably too dense and cryptic for most. I still don't know how Dessert figures into it exactly. It seemed like they were somehow masterminding this whole Suicide Club, while twisted sub-cults sprung up, like Genesis, quickly sprung up in their wake, but then their last song was clearly a message aimed at people with suicidal thoughts, telling them not to be afraid to seek help and comfort from their friends, seemed contradictory to me. Maybe they saw the sort of mindset they were subliminally programming people with, and didn't like it, so they pulled the plug after trying to repair the damage they had done. I don't know, it's all very ambiguous. I wouldn't be surprised if Sion Sono (director/writer) had a friend who killed his or herself though, this movie seems like it was cathartic for him in a way.
Written by - The Sentry - 15/09/2015