Polish Cinema: Suicide Room (Jan Komasa, 2011, Poland)

  Jan Komasa’s Suicide Room opens with a performance of Schubert’s “Der Doppelganger”, a piece which both establishes the film’s somber tone and theme. The film, a warning about the dangers of the Internet on impressionable teens, explores the dual persona of its protagonist Dominik Santorski, played by Jakub Gierszal. After being humiliated on social media following a gay encounter with a fellow classmate at his private school, Dominik takes refuge in an online community known as the “Suicide Room”, led by a mysterious “Queen” named Sylwia. The group is something of a support network wherein the members watch videos of people killing themselves. Dominik’s virtual persona – represented as an animated avatar interacting with other members of the “Suicide Room” – begins to dominate his real life. Komasa has clearly taken inspiration from the actual phenomenon of “hikikomori”, the Japanese youth who withdrawal from society and become modern-day hermits.

Suicide Room made a splash in Poland upon its initial release in 2011, and Komasa has even followed it up with a spin off film in 2020 – The Hater. There is certainly a universality to its themes of social isolation, depression, and Internet humiliation. The subplot involving Dominik’s homosexuality or bisexuality does interact with the Polish cultural setting (Dominik’s father encourages him to hide his interest in men), but not in a particularly significant way, and it feels rather incidental to the overall story – especially as Dominik ultimately falls in love with Sylwia. One of the film’s other major weaknesses is Dominik’s unlikability as a protagonist – he comes off as a spoiled rich kid, consistently indulged by his parents, rather than someone we can truly identify with. While Komasa is certainly making some commentary on the new materialistic Polish intelligentsia through the presence of Dominik’s workaholic parents, the fact of Dominik being ultra-wealthy is not the wisest choice. Overall, however, Suicide Room is a reasonably entertaining – if overwrought and overlong - teen drama.

6/10

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