In a matter of days, suicide rates are going through the roofs in Japan. One incident involving a mass suicide of 54 school girls forces the police to raise the question: what is making them commit suicide? Detective Kuroda takes it upon himself to find out what makes them do these things, and if there is a criminal behind it all.
I suppose it's been a good 7-8 years since I first heard about this film. Around the same time that I first saw "Battle Royale", I think. I'm not sure why I never ended up watching it, it's pretty fucking stupid since I really have been wanting to. Is it because I get annoyed by hype? Possibly. But since I have gotten into Sion Sono a bit more now after some films like "Strange Circus", "Cold Fish" and "Guilty of Romance", I suppose it's just appropriate to go back to the first film I heard of by him. Now, the big question is this: did it survive 8 years of hype?
We're introduced to a mass suicide where 54 school girls jump in front of a train, while holding eachothers hands. After this we jump into the police's investigation of the incident, as well as following them while they connect other similar incidents. At a certain point they realize it's not just coincidences, but something is either forcing them to commit suicide, or influencing them to do it. The further we get into the investigation, the more it points at criminal activity, but at the same time we always get the feeling that it's something merely influencing them.
I think for the most part this is a very good detective story. In the bones it's very unusual, but also very Japanese. I'm not at all surprised that there is a comedic vibe through the film because it works well with the absurd part of the whole thing, but I also feel that in some scenes it would've work better if they went for creepiness and something more melancholic. Instead, the suicides are usually very splattery. And the people committing suicide are usually happy about it. Which, in the end, makes sense but that doesn't mean it couldn't have gone the other way.
Then, of course, we have the final reveal of what is causing them to do it. And sadly, this was rather predictable. They pulled it off well, though, because it's never clear exactly why or how it influences people up until the end. But we could figure out early on exactly WHAT it was that did it, even if not why or how. Like I said, it still works because of how they worked it out. They lead us down the wrong path for a little bit, and then goes back to the actual reason. The idea goes hand-in-hand with these modern times and ultimately works as satire and as a look on how certain really small things can influence people in big ways. You can look deeper into this, but it can also be viewed as a rather shallow detective story of an unusual crime. The film works equally well in both ways, but sure, it'll be giving you a slightly bigger kick if you give it more care.
"Suicide Club" makes for a fun ride. With Sion Sono behind the wheel we'll be going through several different emotions as it's at times repulsive, at times funny, and always interesting. We have a character in the movie that is so obnoxious and annoying that we can't help but enjoy his presence, even when he breaks out in a terrible song. He calls himself the Charles Manson of the Information Age and is just random enough to work. I don't think "Suicide Club" is the best film out of the ones I have seen from Sion Sono, but it just reassures me that his work is, for the most part, a step above most other director's. There's something that feels present in all of his work, something I can't put my finger on. A film by him will draw you in within minutes, and before it's over you've gone through a number of things you most definitely didn't expect. What those things are, you'll have to see for yourself.
Images used by kind permission of: Cine du Monde (UK)
© 2002 Suicide Club Film Partners