Polish writer/director Jan Komasa’s Suicide Room is a dark exploration of emo culture and modern youth culture at large. In his ambitious independent debut, Komasa weaves together elements of social media—Facebook, web chats, 3-D virtual environments, and mobile uploads—to reveal a world in which alienation and connectivity co-exist in a kind of feedback loop.
Dominik is a privileged eighteen year old, cloistered in the upper echelon of Polish society. He wins the admiration of his schoolmates after a video taken of him kissing a boy at a party is uploaded to a social networking site. But when a humiliating encounter proves Dominik’s interest in boys to be more than a party prank, he becomes the victim of cyber-bullying and ostracism.
Emotionally destroyed, he refuses to go back to school. He develops an online relationship with Sylwia (Roma Gasiorowska) a suicidal girl whose self-injury video captures his attention. She invites him into a virtual community called Suicide Room—a world in which she is queen. He is consumed by the cult of Suicide Room, which becomes his new family, for better or worse.
Dominik’s mother (Agata Kulesza) and father (Krzysztof Pieczynski) use the only tools they have—money and power—to try to bring him back into their world. They assume they can buy off or bully experts into “fixing” him. But the gap between Dominik and his parents only grows, as his parents simply don’t have what it takes to connect with him. Within this seemingly irresolvable conflict lies Komsa’s central theme—the emptiness of materialism.
Komasa clearly has a finger on the pulse of youth culture. He does a good job of integrating all the technologies and media of the modern world into his story without it feeling forced or out of touch. Komasa is also not afraid to mix pop culture with “high” culture. We get references to Hamlet, a scene from Gluk’s opera Orpheus and Eurydice, and music from Mozart’s Requiem interspersed with whiney emo songs and pop techno. It is epic, multi-layered, and at times, unwieldy. Fortunately, Suicide Room has more going for it than mere techno-savvy, with its solid performances and intelligent—or at least sincere—approach to disturbing themes.
Even with its weaknesses—mostly a result of Komasa’s penchant for excess—Suicide Room is something of a phenomenon. A box office hit in Poland, it’s picking up awards all over the world. Most recently, it was awarded at the 13th Annual Polish Film Festival in Los Angeles, largely due to its social significance. There is one caveat, however. The starkness of Suicide Room is unrelenting. There is not much in the way of humor or levity. As evidenced by online discussions about the film, it takes an emotional toll on some. That being said, Komasa has the kind of guts and ambition we need in cinema today.
2012 Stockholm International Film Festival Junior – Bronze Horse, main prize
2012 Polish Eagle (Orly) Award – Discovery of the Year for Jan Komasa, Best Editing for Bartosz Pietras
2011 Camerimage – Best Film in Polish Film Competition
2011 Kyiv International Film Festival – Special Mention by Ecumenical Jury
2011 Cinergia The Forum of European Cinema – Best Cinematography Award for Radoslaw Ladczuk
2011 Cottbus Film Festival – Best Youth Film in the U-18 German-Polish Youth Film Competition
2011 Giffoni Film Festival, Italy – Gryphon Award for Best Film, ARCA Cinemagiovani Award, Best Music Score Award
2011 Art Film Fest International Film Festival, Slovakia – The Blue Angel for Best Director
2011 Gdynia Polish Film Festival – Silver Lion, Best Custumes Award for Dorota Roqueplo, Best Sound Award for Bartosz Putkiewicz
2011 OFFplus Camera, International Festival of Independent Cinema – FIPRESCI Award
Suicide Room is one of the best films from Polish cinema screened at 2012 Polish Film Festival Los Angeles