A disturbing and occasionally powerful look at youths with suicidal tendencies through the off/online realms that they inhabit.
Dir. Jan Komasa
2011 | Poland | Drama/Thriller | 110 mins | 1.85:1 | Polish & English
M18 (passed clean) for mature content
Cast: Jakub Gierszal, Roma Gasiorowska, Agata Kulesza
Plot: After suffering extreme humiliation at school, Dominik holes himself up in his room and begins spending all his time in a virtual reality chat room.
Awards: Nom. for Teddy Award (Berlin)
International Sales: LevelK
Subject Matter: Slightly Disturbing – Suicide, Dark Web, Depression
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse
Viewed: Screener – European Union Film Festival
First Published: 19 May 2013
I felt uncomfortable watching Suicide Room. But that is writer-director Jan Komasa’s intention. He paints a disturbing picture of severe youth depression, centering on one young man’s plight as he battles the demons that force him to be suicidal.
These demons are woven into the fabric that is reality, and manifest themselves as rich and uncaring parents, school bullies and the amorphous Internet.
In one scene, the father removes the Internet connection to get his son out of his room (the latter has been in there for days). The son goes berserk like some of us do when a webpage doesn’t load in two seconds. But that doesn’t mean we are automatically suicidal.
Underlying circumstances have made Dominik (Jakub Gierszal) an introverted and misunderstood guy. He self-proclaims to his conservative parents that he is a homosexual after he kisses a guy due to peer pressure. He is also teased by his classmates on his sexuality on the Internet.
Dominik begins to watch suicide videos of depressed folks cutting their wrists or mutilating themselves. But it is not until he enters a secret online portal called ‘Suicide Room’ that he ironically finds himself at home… with suicidal folks hiding behind avatars, in particular a girl who he has a relatively fulfilling online relationship with.
“I don’t want to live.”
Komasa’s film toggles between the realities of offline and online realms. In the latter, the visuals morph into a ‘computer game’ aesthetic. The colourful and fantastical virtual reality setting is in stark contrast to the punishing reality of Dominik’s life – as characterized by his torturous, claustrophobic and social-phobic physical and psychological environment.
Suicide Room is quite brilliantly acted, with an outstanding performance by Gierszal who immerses himself into a role that requires more than just being depressed – it requires both subtlety and startling intensity.
Nominated for a Teddy at the Berlin International Film Festival, Suicide Room is at times powerful with its imagery, though sometimes too ‘visual’ for its own good.
While the intercutting of offline and online worlds is creative, and if I may add, quite audacious, the most engaging parts still revolve around Dominik’s psychological reality, which does not necessarily always conflate with either his off/online realities, but rather how he views himself and his own existence.
This Polish film leaves one with a bitter aftertaste (like the feeling you would get after seeing a film like Requiem for a Dream (2000)), and is fair warning for all teenagers (and parents) who are unaware of the perils of the Internet, depression and suicide.