Rating: 3 stars out of 5
Sala Samobójców, as it's known in Polish, achieved critical mass and commercial acclaim in Poland and Europe. For starters, it won a prize from The International Federation of Film Critics and the International Festival of Independent Cinema Off Plus Camera. It dominated the Polish box office's #1 spot for three straight weeks. But most of all, it has the distinction of being the world's first “Euro-manga” movie.
As a film, ‘Suicide Room’ proudly wears its heart and soul on its sleeve. Though Poland really is in central Europe, the movies they make are not dissimilar to those from the Eastern Bloc. Gorgeously shot, ‘Suicide Room’ is not only one of the prettiest movies you will probably have laid your eyes on but also the bleakest of them all. Be warned, this film is really not for the faint of heart; self-mutilation like wrist cutting is depicted in the movie.
The basic plot of the movie is fairly simple in nature and is of a very relatable nature; privileged kid has everything but nothing. Dominik Santorski (Jakub Gierszał) is the only child of two career driven parents. Despite being a rather popular kid at a private high school with an amazing amount of hot teenagers, the lack of his parents' involvement in his life leaves him hollow. The filmmaker, Jan Komasa, has done a very commendable job of being able to pull that premise into multiple directions and is able showcase the various dimensions of Dominik's life.
A really interesting theme that he has really explored is that of the Internet and its effects. Dominik's breakdown is essentially brought about by a series of incidents in school and when its mockery goes viral on Facebook, Dominik shuts down his normal life. The Internet though, provides him with solace after he sees a video of self-mutilation and connects with kindred soul Sylwia and the Suicide Room online, a place that becomes his only link to the world. In a way, the film really explores the social effects and power of the Internet through Dominik.
It then becomes a rather conundrum that we find ourselves in. The movie's “Euro-manga” tag comes from its shift to a CGI world, complete with avatars and fake worlds. It's a very interesting concept but when shown multiple times throughout the movie, it does lose its novelty rather quickly.
The “dream world” music used here doesn't help either. The movie slows down considerably when in those scenes and even when it's not in the CGI world, scenes between Dominik and Sylwia are basically shots of them talking to each other through web cam. It is interesting that Dominik's only relationship in the movie is one that will feel strangely disconnected and detached for the viewer.
Whether that works for the viewer though, is completely up to one's interpretation of those events. What it does do very well, is to propel the question of whether you can maintain a connection effectively through only the Internet into the viewer's head.
The unquestioned highlight of the film stems from the great performances delivered by the cast of the movie. Lead actor Jakub Gierszał's role of Dominik is one to remember – a haunting performance that jumps from extreme ends of the emotional spectrum at the snap of a finger.
The supporting characters, his parents, really steal the show. Agata Kulesza and Krzysztof Pieczyński (it's a real mouthful) as Dominik's parents who only fret when they finally notice Dominik's descent, serve as effective counter points to Dominik's character. These characters clearly care for one another but are completely unable to get onto the same communication plane at once. However, through their actions, we're able to empathise greatly with both sides, especially for the parents who are basically helpless to fight Dominik's depression.
‘Suicide Room’ is stark, haunting and even beautiful at times in its unavoidable damnation of its central character, although the execution of the movie is rather messy at times.
However, the filmmakers should be commended for trying out new avenues to express their ideas even if the end results are a little rough. Director Jan Komasa and lead actor Jakub Gierszałare definitely talents you should keep an eye on in future.