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Suicide Room (Poland)


Homosexuality, bullying and suicide. The former should not be associated with the latter two, but alas, it often is. The question becomes why people fear that which they see as different, and subsequently why the reaction to these differences is often perpetuated through violent actions, both mental and physical. While minor improvements have been made in the modern world to prevent such vicious acts of degradation that result in unnecessary deaths, there are still places where even the idea of homosexuality leads to cruel treatment and crippling isolation. Such is the case of Dominik (Jakub Gierszal) in the Polish drama Suicide Room.

Grade:

As the only son of a wealthy politician and successful fashion designer, Dominik has always led a privileged life ripe with friends and happiness. After an incident with a male friend makes him question his own sexuality, he becomes the object of ridicule as his schoolmates regularly post damning videos and comments on social media sites. As Dominik slips deeper and deeper into depression, he finds solace in the Suicide Room where he meets Sylwia (Roma Gasiorowska), an even more depressed teenager whose outlook on death has become more favorable than her desire to live.

 

We’ll begin with the one near-fatal flaw of the film since the rest Suicide Room is extremely powerful and poignant in its imagery and content. This flaw is the extent to which Dominik suffers from bullying. It can be categorized as medium at best. Since he shuts himself off from the outside world and locks himself in his room, the only reactions to his homosexual behavior he comes in contact with come from the occasional social networking he does. When he actually chooses to return to school, he is largely ignored, apart from the occasional sexual gesture or pejorative term. Compared to the other bullying film I reviewed, Ben X, Dominik’s experience is mundane. This does not derail the film, as it focuses more intently on depression and suicide than homosexuality, but it does throw a wrench in the foundation and base of the film since Dominik proves to be quick in his judgments and hypersensitive to criticism.

Where Suicide Room excels is in the portrayal of vulnerability. Once Dominik and Sylwia begin talking consistently, we see the complete and utter conversion one’s personality can go through when given a steady hand to hold onto. Due to his fear and uncertainty, Dominik listens intently to everything Sylwia has to say, as she is the authority on depression in his mind. She is the only aid he seeks during this trying time, so everything she declares becomes law. It’s the mob mentality cramped into one singular person’s desire for acceptance and warmth. A troubling sight no doubt, but one that makes you think about what potentially harmful things you have believed when at your most vulnerable.

The family dynamic and destruction of the nuclear family unit is the next most impressive aspect of the film. As the parents drift from one another due to work and general apathy, they drift from their son—the only reason the family remains together. When they finally become aware of their son’s condition, their true personalities come into play.

The immediate and fervent rejection of Dominik’s potential homosexuality creates a rift between the parents and their child because he feels there is nowhere to turn within his own household except the Internet. Later on, the father would rather sweep the problems under the rug to save his career than actually delve into the root of the problems. Meanwhile, Dominik’s mother simply doesn’t know what to do and cannot move beyond her own pride as a successful businesswoman and mother to speak with her own son. The scenes with the psychiatrists are quick and deep into the film, but they are, by far, the most telling with regards to the parental influence.

Moving beyond the disturbingly realistic storyline, the acting is excellent. Gierszal completely immerses himself in Dominik’s mental indecision and anguish. He is confused, hurt, emotionally spent and unwilling to accept help from anyone who isn’t in a similar state of mind. The moments of clarity with Dominik showcase this the best as we see that beneath this self-pity and personal revulsion, lies an intelligent, self-aware teenager who cannot break free from his own mental barricades.

Suicide Room is visually striking with sharp contrasts and deliberate scenes expertly chosen to convey the mood. The scenes within the Suicide Room closely resemble the animation of Reboot (clip here). These scenes are the main opportunities for the Sylwia-Dominik relationship to flourish, but occasionally can get confusing as it is never explicit whether they are video-chatting during this time, playing a virtual-reality game or both. Again, not much of an effect on the film, but a cause for confusion.

Since the final thing we see before the credits is a phone number for a suicide prevention hotline, the main focus of the film comes to light and we realize this was deeply personal to all those involved in its production. While I do think there are bits and pieces that could have been better executed, the film, for the most part, would relate to teenagers and show them that there is help out there and suicide is not the option, even for the most depressed of individuals.

If you haven’t figured out, Suicide Room is a heavy film. That being said, it makes you appreciative of everything you have and everyone you know. I hope it can help someone at some point.

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