Suicide Club/ Sucide Circle


Warning: This is NOT your typical horror film. Suicide Club is disturbing, thought-provoking, and not for the casual movie-goer or thrill-seeker: If you go into this expecting to be frightened or constantly jumping out of your seat, you're bound to be disappointed. And confused. Both of which are terrible combinations.

This review is basically an attempt to clear up some misconceptions, confusion, and general questions viewers may have experienced after watching this film. I don't claim to be an expert--FAR FROM IT--but since this is one of my favorite Japanese horror films, I wanted to at least attempt to explain what it is about this movie that I find so engaging. I really think its one of those movies that deserves (and probably needs) a second look. Without it, many people have a tendency to process what's only on the surface, and miss what the director is truly trying to say--about Japan, technology, suicide, and society in general.

So from here on out, spoilers will be unavoidable.

Download: MyAsianCinema , SilentRegrets , AM-Addiction
Watch Online: Aznv.TV , DramaCrazy

My Rating:


Small Disclaimer
: I'm not brilliant enough to have gleaned all of this information myself. Some of it is from my own personal interpretations, while other theories are what I've gathered from various sites on the web (via forums, reviews, comments, general discussions, etc). If you disagree with any of these points, feel free to leave a tasteful comment, or hit the back-button. Personally, I don't think there's one "correct" interpretation for ANYTHING that appears in this movie: I think each scene and/or character can be understood in many different ways. Ultimately, the way you choose to view it is entirely up to you.

Now let's get started.

Two quick facts you should probably know about Japan that will make understanding this film that much easier.

First of all, Japan is very well known for having a high suicide rate: Out of all industrialized society, Japan tops among the highest (in 2006, it was rated 9th in the world). The problem became so troubling that the government even released a "nine-step plan" in 2007 to help combat the problem (wikipedia).

Even in Japan's colorful past, suicide was not uncommon: the practice is ingrained into the very culture itself. Dating back to the samurai, it was once considered an honorable way to die, and was carried out in a ritualistic fashion (seppuku/harakiri). But even more interesting is a form of suicide known as funishi (憤死, indignation death), a method of self-annihilation that was used to express dissatisfaction or protest in the past (wikipedia).

The point is, there can be many different motivations behind the act itself. When watching Suicide Club, it's important to take this into consideration: what is motivating the people in this movie? Is it simply a form of brainwashing? An evil plot orchestrated by singing delinquents? Or is more going on here than meets the eye. . .?

Personally, I tend to lean towards the latter.

Fact number 2: compared to the West, Japan's mindset is very group-oriented, not individualized like here in in the US: "Human fulfillment comes from close association with others . . . they are part of an interdependent society, beginning in the family and later extending to larger groups such as neighborhood, school, playground, community, and company; dependence on others is a natural part of the human condition" (wikipedia).

In the East, importance is placed on the "we" not so much the "me". However, there is a generation gap that has been steadily growing in Japan, as more and more of the country finds itself getting swept up in the culture of the West, leaving behind the values and beliefs that were once important in sustaining the country.

I'm generalizing these issues of course, but viewing these basic principles through the lens of the film, may help in understanding the tension between the two cultures, and how the West has impacted the basic structure of Japan; particularly in regards to its youth.

Ultimately what this movie is trying to do is to show Japan's deteriorating sense of "self": In its own identity, in the lack of communication and connection among its citizens, and the role technology, the West, and adults have (and will continue to play) in its deterioration. Genesis, and what he symbolizes, is an example of one of the things Sono Sion feels is to blame for the current unsavory 'trends' in his country. . .

It may seem that the West has a natural ability to "connect" with oneself, since it's practically what our entire society is build-upon. However, in Suicide Club, this connection is depicted as undesirable and unnatural: something that can arguably be seen in Genesis and his den of pleasures. Consider the setting and the music: a bowling alley, a rock song, and a strong allusion to the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

These are indicative of influences from the West, all of which are the setting for one of the most disturbing and terrible scenes in the entire film. And yet, Genesis is a prime example of someone who IS connected to themselves--to a horrifying, alarming level. He is the extreme, and evidence of what can happen when one takes that connection too far. He is so out of touch with society, that all he cares about is fame and creating social upheaval. He uses the anonymity of the internet to find victims, while promoting his own twisted version of the "suicide club"--taking credit for something he really had no hand in beginning.

Of course, the West isn't the only thing to blame. Part of the problem is technology.

Dessert's song, Mail Me, addresses this concern in a clever way--citing the problem, but candy-coating it within in the lyrics of a sugary pop-song (the spelling of the name Dessart is no accident). People have become so dependent on technology, that they've started losing that connection within themselves: rather than speak face-to-face, they converse using email, phones, computers, faxes. . . this problem is really exemplified with Kuroda and his family.

From the very beginning, we're shown just how out of touch with his children Kuroda's become: the only interaction he has with them throughout the entire film is through the internet site his son finds in relation to the suicides, and the performance of Dessert on television that his daughter watches at dinner. But these connections was artificial at best--he is so caught up in his work, that he doesn't even process the danger until it's too late (his son's tattoo, his daughter's blood soaked greeting). His entire family was able to connect to themselves and to each other, but he wasn't. In the end, he didn't sever his connection in any meaningful way--he did it in a moment of desperation, depression, and self-blame.

Interestingly enough, the nurses at the beginning were meant to symbolize this reliance on technology as well: In a scene that was cut, the missing nurse actually "faxes" herself using the fax-machine. But because of time restraints and the importance of Kuroda, it was deemed unnecessary and left out in the final version. (However, part of it can apparently be seen in some of the DVD trailer clips).

Another major contribution to the deterioration of Japan's sense of self, is in the form of its impressionable youth. In Japanese culture, children are considered very important to the growth and future of society (they even have a holiday dedicated to children: "childrens day"). Not to say that children aren't valued in other countries, but in Japan, the generation gap between the traditional adults, and the more "Westernized" youth is becoming a growing concern: it's addressed in the media, in literature, and reflected in society itself. "Most young Japanese are turned inward, focused upon themselves, their technological toys, and their clothes . . . parents seem willfully humorless and clueless about how to handle them" (Psychology Today, December 2009).

But that's not the only concern: the need to "follow the crowd" is more appealing than ever. Dessert's second song, Puzzle, addresses this very issue. It tells of the pressures people feel trying to "belong", and what can happen when they take that need to the extreme, looking for it in superficial ways, rather than creating meaningful bonds meant to last. Dessert makes it clear what it's in store for those trying to fit in forcefully . . . and the kids on the roof are the perfect example.

The suicide jump began as a joke, but when just one of them was serious, the rest were dragged right along for the ride. And really, isn't that often what happens with trends? People blindly follow the herd? Even the ones who initially let go, end up following through with it in the end (one of them is dragged to his death unwillingly). That's why there was no bag or roll of skin left behind. None of these students truly "connect" with themselves. Like Kuroda, they severed their connection falsely; perverting the idea of a "Suicide Club" to fit their own needs (much like Genesis tried to claim the idea as his own). They're part of the problem plaguing society, not a solution. It's just like the chief of police fears: if word got out about a suicide club, kids all over the country would be eager to join in--no matter how idiotic the notion. Togetherness and a sense of community is undeniably important, but the notion can be dangerous if taken too far (just like Genesis represents the extreme on the other side of the scale). Having a healthy balance then--with yourself, your family, your friends--is what's truly important.

Of course, the children aren't the ones truly to blame: according to Suicide Club, it's the adults who hold that honor. They're the clueless, the absent, the helpless--the ones who are compounding the problem, rather than seeking solutions. It's the children who are actually trying to FIX things . . . but can mass genocide truly solve anything? It's one answer (as morbid and disturbing as that seems) but we're given a hint that it's not the only one. . .

In the auditorium, the children make a big deal out of this one line: When rain dries, clouds form.

Midori no Saru made an interesting point in a forum I read: "Obviously it refers to the fact that what we see as misfortune or depression is really part of the process. When we enjoy dry weather it is because the cloud is forming in preparation for rain. All natural processes, including life itself, depend on instability to function. That instability creates a fluctuation that we depend on. So, sadness, misfortune, and even the economic situations that create misfortune (Japan has been going through a major economic depression for the last 10 years) are part of the processes that create happier times. Bad times and good times are two sides of the one essence, and both are needed for each to exist" (mandiapple.com).

Another interpretation, could be the literal one: Rain may dry up, but as long as there are clouds forming, rain can and will fall again (in it's own way, it's like a never-ending circle). If you look at it that way, then suicide can arguably be viewed in much the same way, especially considering that most Japanese believe in reincarnation, and follow the Buddhist or Shinto religions. Their "connections" may be gone, but they still survive on some plane of existence--perhaps in someone's memory, or in the thoughts of those they've left behind. It's the reason they were all able to leave so cheerfully--with a smile and a wave. Suicide, for them, wasn't the end. It was the beginning.

The song Genesis sings is actually very poignant in this sense, though he twists its meaning into something ugly for his own purposes: "Because the dead shine all night long" can alternatively mean that death has the ability to bring light and enlightenment even after someone's gone. Like Joan of Arc, if someone dies for a purpose, then their death isn't viewed as a waste--their intentions live on long after their gone. These suicides were not motivated out of selfish, or hopeless reasons. It was one way they sought to fix what was plaguing society--expounded by the connected skin that was left in their wake.

The pieces of skin sewn together are meant to signify society's attempt to reclaim what was lost--to finally reconnect. Whenever the bag was left, it was meant to represent those people who were able to make worthwhile connections--who came to terms with their own identities, and sought a solution. The children in the auditorium sum it up best: Everyone, in some way, is seeking a connection within themselves. The question then becomes: in what ways are you connected? And once you're aware of this connection, what do you do with it? Some repair it (Genesis is in DESPERATE need of this), others sever it (Kuroda, the cop, is very out of touch with himself and his family). Or some choose to sever the connection within themselves completely (the suicides).

And yet, the little boy is right: There is no Suicide Club. The girl-band Dessert exists in order to bring this connection to a person's consciousness; in essence, to wake people up. There are problems here, they're trying to tell them--and they're saying it in the only way people seem capable of listening. It's telling that their message was conveyed through the use of music, pop-culture, the internet, and the media--all of which are also to blame for society's current state. Like I mentioned earlier, if you listen to the lyrics in all of their songs, it explains what those problems are: "Mail Me"--technology, "Puzzle"--stress, peer pressure, fitting in, "Live As You Please"--people giving up; not living life to its fullest. Even the band itself is ambiguous: the spelling of its name is constantly changing with each song, revealing an underlying theme behind each pronunciation. "Dessart/Mail Me", "Dessret/Puzzle", "Dessert/Live"

(Dessert--something tasty, but bad for you; Desert--to abandon or leave, empty and barren; Dessret--death art/death threat).

However, what people choose to do with the knowledge Dessert gives them (if they choose to acknowledge it at all), and with their connections to themselves and others, is entirely their own choice. The suicides came about because people were seeking solutions in the only way they knew how: through death, by placing their hopes in the future. And yet, Dessert's final song addresses an alternate solution to the one people have been choosing: "live as you please". Make the most out of the life you're given--light yourself up with life, love, and memories.

That's why the ending at the subway is so significant: Mitsuko chooses to go on living, despite the fact that death, ultimately, is the quick and easy solution. Of course, living with this decision can be daunting (just look at her resigned expression after she boards the train). However, nobody said it would be easy. Dessert even addresses the problems facing this choice in their farewell song: "it may be a lot of work, but it's a lot of fun to." Mitsuko did have fun times with her boyfriend . . . we see this in the pictures he had in his room, in the quiet, subtle ways she remembers him . . .

And some day, she will have happy memories like those again. Like Dessert sings: "As we go, we'll forget the pain. We'll find life again." Just like all the others who choose to walk this path, the reward in the end will be worth it.

Hopefully the sacrifice of all those that came before have brought to the surface the fact that there *are* problems, and that, as a society, they can no longer turn a blind eye to them (like the captain of the police, who didn't even acknowledge that the suicides were a problem to begin with). Perhaps society will become more connected because of these tragedies and will begin valuing life, themselves, and their families once again. It's all about 'stopping to smell the roses' and not taking life for granted; of finding a balance--with yourself, and those around you.

And if 54 high school students jumping in front of a train isn't enough to get your attention . . . what is?

In conclusion: If you love a movie that will make you think and forces you to question everything it is you're watching, then I'm pretty confident that you'll enjoy this too. Just be prepared to be open-minded--then you won't be disappointed. ^_^

Theories

The coughing boy: (Kuroda receives a call several times from a young boy who coughs at the end of each sentence). As far as I can figure, this was another way to reinforce the lack of communication and understanding between adults and children. The coughs are intentional on the child's part (in the auditorium--if it is the same boy--he spoke clearly). So this could either be a symbolic gesture, meant to illustrate the halting/troubled relationship between Kuroda and his family, or to exemplify the difficulty people have in communicating in general. After all, this entire dialogue takes place over a phone, not face-to-face . . . which is essentially what Dessert is rallying against in the first place.

The "ghost" nurses: (When the night guard is patrolling the hospital, he sees the two ghost forms of the nurses). I think it might have something to do with the concept of people living on after their deaths--tying in the whole concept of what Genesis touches on in his death song, as well as the rain and cloud analogy the children later allude to. This is the impact the suicides are meant to have . . . that just because someone's "gone" doesn't mean they're forgotten. The dead literally shine all night long, leaving behind a message that lingers long after they're gone.

The Websites/The Bat: From what I can gather (pure conjecture on my part), the kids in the auditorium were also responsible for the website with the red and white dots: The internet was just another way for them to reach out, beyond the music and the media.

Besides, in a way, isn't the internet a mini-cult in its own right? It has its own culture and following--something The Bat is meant to represent (a culture, within a culture--where the disconnection runs so deep, that they can no longer be themselves, but make up fake names to hide behind). I think The Bat would have eventually figured out the truth behind the suicides, much like Mitsuko and Kuroda's son did . . . however, since she volunteered to help the police, Genesis kidnapped her before she could get that far.

Children/Bunnies (submitted by Eveline): On the surface, I think they were meant to signify innocence and rebirth, like Eveline stated in her original question. But even more than that, it's a direct juxtaposition for Genesis's actions in the bowling alley, when he put animals in bags, and stomped on them. In that instance, sacrifices were made with no regard for life (human, or otherwise), and personal fame/glory remained the sole motivator. And yet, on the children's "grand stage" chicks and animals roam freely, and the "sacrifice" is a willing participant who knows what he/she is giving up. They're motivated by a worthy, selfless cause (repairing society), and likewise, harbor no regrets.

Any other questions/comments/concerns? Leave a comment, and I'll be sure to add it here and take a stab at answering it. (I claim no accuracy though). ^_^

And tell me . . . do you think you're connected?

Lyrics

Mail Me
Mail me. Hurry and hit the send key.
Can't you see? I've waited patiently.
Mail me. To my phone or PC, I'm
ready to tell you that I'm standing by.
Mail me. I want to let you know that as
friends go, yours is the best hello.
Mail me. I'm sure you never knew, how I
feel about you, this is real, I need to...
...hear from you right now or I'll die.

Puzzle
The world is
The world is
A jigsaw puzzle.
Somewhere there's a fit for you,
A place where your
Puzzle piece belongs.
Don't fit you say?
Then make it so.
There's nowhere for my piece to go.
Find a place that lasts forever.
Perhaps I'd better say "so long."
WOAH!

Because the Dead
Time and time again
The sky is blue.
And yet it's strange how people
Seem to always fall in love.
An unfamiliar yellow dog
Keeps grinning as it
Tears us from the ones we love.
Because the dead
Because the death
Because the dead
Shine all night long.
I want to die
As beautifully as Joan of Arc
Inside a Bresson film.
Lesson one,
Apply the shaving cream
And smile as you then slowly
Slice away the heart.
Because the dead
Because the death
Because the dead
Shine all night long.
Feel the warmth of the spring rain
As it gently moistens down a cheek
That's streaked
With dried up tears.
A guiless boy but five years old
Stares blankly in the face of death
While the heart
Is cut and torn away.
Because the dead
Because the death
Because the dead
Shine all night long.
Sayonara
If a gentle melody
Rises to your ears,
Stop the world revolving
And let the music swell.
Someday we shall meet again,
So wipe away those tears.
Now it's time to bid you all
A pleasant farewell.
Now it's time to bid you all
A pleasant farewell.
Now it's time to say goodbye,
I hope you all are well.


Live As You Please
Little did we know,
how little do we ever really know.
Every day we're pressing the keys
That executes a million commands.
If only you would say exactly
What is on your mind,
And tell me how you really feel.
Maybe I can lend a helping hand.
Scary it's true
But loads of fun too.
To open up and feel the brand of life
for each and every one.
Light yourself with life.
Light yourself with love.
Light yourself with memories.
All it takes is just a little
Heart and courage on your part.
Turn around yourself and take it.
Once again right from the start.
Though you may feel
Out of touch at times,
Or fear an evil spell
Has your life in hand.
If by some chance, you share
The feelings that I have for you
Come occupy the chasm of my heart.
Together we can
Shed light on the dark.
Scary it's true
But we'll be happy, too.
Now do you really want
To say goodbye
And leave me high and dry?
Light yourself with life.
Light yourself with love.
Light yourself with memories.
As we go, we'll forget the pain
We'll find life again.
As we go, we'll forget the pain
We'll find life again.

Comments

  1. oh wow, i've just seen this movie accidentially, and i feel enriched. i want to appreciate your good interpretation here ;) i have to think now.. i can't gainsay you at the moment :D

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  2. WHOA, thank you soo much for clearing that up. i was so confused with the whole movie. i seriously thought that the ghost nurses where just there to throw you off from the real plot, to mess with your mind. well, i guess this whole movie messes with your mind doesn't it. but whoa, everything makes sense now, at first is was just random jumbled mess!
    Mitsuko throughout the movie was kinda of unemotional and didnt care about anything kind of attitude (her ear got freaking severed and she just walked into a store and ordered coffee!) did she symbolize todays youth? and with Genesis i thought that he was like trying to get the credit for the suicide club because he wanted to get caught and he glamed up his image so much. and i thought it was just another ploy to through you off from the real culprits. oh! and when i heard the ending song i was like WTF they helped kill 19234 ppl but still sang of life? what kind of kids are these? and what is the significance of the bunnies that the kids had. And also when mitsuko went to get her skin shaven off what was the point of all those chick? rebirth? Ah such a great confusing movie!

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  3. Have you seen Norikos Dinner Table? I'm not sure if you wrote a review on it but in Noriko's Dinner Table Noriko takes up the alias "Mitsuko". What is your take on the connection between the two Mitsukos in S-Club and Noriko's Dinner Table?

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  4. Eveline: You're completely right about Genesis and his motivations. I was just looking beneath the surface of his character (how he ties into the movie's various themes). But yes, I think he symbolizes more than a red-herring, and a glory-seeking psycho, lol.

    As for Mitsuko, I'd agree: she's a great example of the disillusioned youth, and how remote and jaded they've become. And I think your rebirth-interpretation of the chicks is spot on, since what they're basically what's happening.

    As for the kids and the bunnies... I think they were meant to juxtaposition Genesis and the bowling alley. From what I remember, Genesis was keeping animals in bags and stepping on them, right? So if you compare the two "suicide clubs", it becomes clear which club is right and which is wrong: Genesis forcefully makes sacrifices with no regard for life; human or otherwise, and is motivated by selfish means (fame/glory). While with the children, the "sacrifice" is a willing participant, who knows what he/she is giving up, and is motivated by a worthy cause.

    Thanks for the interesting question. I'll have to add it to the main page! ^_^

    Sibel: Yup, I actually did a review on Noriko's dinner table long before Suicide Club (you can find it using the search option, or browsing the tags.) Honestly though, I don't remember noticing any connection between the names. I'd have to watch it again to know for sure though...

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  5. Great review! Angela. I watched the movie like 4 hours ago and I needed to clear some things up, I mean I had an idea of what it could meant but nothing compared to this. It really helped me to comprehend the meaning of the film. Thanks a lot.

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  6. Your analysis is great! Thank you for helping me decipher the meaning of this film…its really deep, and worth reflecting upon.

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  7. thank you for the analysis !! it's amazing cause there some points that i missed out !

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  8. 16 years have passed since this movie. Great to have read your review. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete

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