the film snob

A cyberspace journal about my experiences as an NYU film school grad student, reviews of current and classic films, film and TV news, and the rants and raves of an admitted (and unapologetic) film snob.

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Esse Quam Videri -- To be, rather than to appear

Friday, October 13, 2006

The Virgin Suicides

"We knew the girls were really women in disguise, that they understood love, and even death, and that our job was merely to create the noise that seemed to fascinate them."

It's not often that you finish a film both depressed and whimsical, saddened and knowing you just watched something beautiful, emotional and also deeply introspective.

It's not often that you watch a film like The Virgin Suicides.

Sophia Coppola's 2000 directorial debut is ostensibly a story about five sisters. But is is also--perhaps more so--about the boys who adore them, voyeuristically, from afar.

The Lisbons are the most exotic family on the block. The parents (James Woods and Kathleen Turner) handle her five daughters' burgeoning sexuality the only way they know how--they keep them imprisoned in the house.

The neighborhood boys are transfixed with the girls, especially Lux (Kirsten Dunst). They are not in love with them--love requires proximity and time--they are in love with their own ideas of them. So unknowable, so out of reach, the boys are beguiled by the mystery that surrounds the magical, beautiful creatures in that strange house and create elaborate, imaginative stories out of the few puzzle pieces of the girls' lives they are able to scrape together.

The Virgin Suicides is a film that understands adolescence, particularly that time in life when one is buffeted by hormones one doesn't understand, when the bodies of children suddenly swell into the shapes of adults, when eyes are awakened for the first time to the opposite sex, and lust first rears its powerful and intoxicating head.

The film, as the title suggests, ends in horrible tragedy, but incredibly, Coppolla doesn't allow The Virgin Suicides to become suffocating and funereal. Instead, even at the end, she maintains a wistfulness and a dreamy quality that casts a spell on the viewer long after the film has ended.

The Virgin Suicides is ultimately about those surreal, magical moments of our youth that can never last but will always leave imprints--even scars--that will remain for the rest of our lives.


Anonymous nate said...

A part of me deeply loved this movie when I first saw it, even if only for Air on the soundtrack and for the way it was shot.

It suffers from the fate of most literary adaptations: in the end being genuinely unadaptable. Even though I never read the book, it's still easy to see the film attemtpting to take the awkward shape and contours of the novel while still being forced to leave out boatloads. I can usually spot a novelistic adaptation without even being aware of the novel in the first place.
The girls as characters are barely there. The boys too, for that matter, are hardly distinctive from each other.
Woods and Turner were fantastic though. And I was also struck by the quote you opened your review with. To me, that was the center of the story.
It's pretty much the center of most teenage boys' stories too.

Sofia does succeed in evoking a peculiar atmosphere and that part I loved and still remember.

11:08 AM  

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