Jan Komasa's latest film tracks a teenager whose life seems ideal on the outset, but who falls into a shady online community that draws him deep into their virtual network and further from reality
The director's previous credits include co-writing the film Oda do Radości / Ode to Joy (2005), hailed a manifest of young Polish cinema. He makes his debut in 2011 as an independent author with his feature film Sala samobobóców / Suicide Room.
The protagonist of the film a teenager who seems to live the ideal life: settled at home and successful at school. His final secondary-school exams are approaching and his life appears to follow the right track. And yet the boy seems to be missing something.
One day, the teen finds an intriguing movie on the Internet - a report on self-mutilation. He finds the author, establishes a contact with her, and in turn, ends up in a mysterious corner of the network, known as the Suicide Room. The community living here - hidden behind their avatars - discuss their willingness and readiness to commit suicide. Dominik does not have suicidal tendencies, but through his fascination of Sylwia - the creator of the web-movie, and Queen of the Suicide Room - he joins the group. Each day, he becomes more and more immersed in the virtual world, isolating himself from reality. After refusing to exit his room for 10 consecutive days, psychiatrists go into action. Engrossed in their own affairs, the teen's parents are not aware of the dangers surrounding him - a few pills should do the job. But it is just these pills that people in the Suicide Room are waiting for...
Asked about his inspiration, Jan Komasa told Culture.pl:
The direct inspiration for the film was the thoughts of Virginia Woolf, as expressed in 'Jacob's Room': 'It's not catastrophes, murders, death or disease which kill us or make us older, but how people look, laugh, jump on different levels of omnibuses'. You may have very much, it may seem that you have a set, happy life, and all of a sudden, unexpectedly, something turns the tides of fate. They kill small things, not the obvious. I wanted to look at them from today's perspective.
It is an interesting way to look at the condition of modern man. The observations of the author have become a key consideration based on one individual teenager who suddenly ceased to like the world surrounding him:Komasa explained:
On the one hand, it is said people are more open, they want to manifest their individuality, on the other hand, the modern convention tells them to hide what annoys them. Here we can recall the shootings at Columbine High School, which Gus Van Sant turned a movie called 'Elephant'. It turns out that people released from the problems of living, become lost, they become entangled, and they start chasing some fantasies. The fascination with the book cycle 'Twilight' written by Stephenie Meyer, and its screen adaptation, about vampires in general, are good examples. What is the 'emo' culture based on? What is its roots? It seems that behind it is the prospect of searching for pain, which is meant to put a weight on their lives, which have thus far, been too easy.
At the same time, Suicide Room is a film about the Internet, which in the past few years has not only facilitated communication between people, but has blossomed into a cultural phenomenon with an importance which is difficult to overestimate. Komasa appreciates the way in which contemporary cinema can talk about new media, but - in his opinion - "The Internet as a medium in itself is not very photogenic". He looked for an equivalent, which allowed him to separate the real and virtual worlds, and found it in computer animation. The film uses a 3D technique, a medium characteristic of computer games and the result is an innovative film that combines acting with animated sequences, both extremely effective and visually attractive, maintained in the conventions of a thriller, and at the same time, touching major issues affecting the present. Although when looked upon from a distance, one can notice that neither the problems are new, nor the fact these problems do not solely affect those standing on the threshold of maturity. Yet, Jan Komasa definitely proved his talent and his sense of cinema is visible in both the concept of the work (he also wrote the screenplay), and the way he directed the actors or addressed issues of staging.The film opened the Panorama special section at the Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin between February 10-20, 2011.
The film took home three trophies at the 41st edition of the Giffoni Film Festival 2011. The film won the Gryphon Award for Best Film in the 16+ category. According to the festival website, jurors were "troubled by the behaviours of the protagonist and by the disorientation of his parents who satisfy only the material desires of their son. The film also won the special Arca Cinemagiovani Award. As the jury remarked, the distinction was given for "the accuracy of the screenplay, full of references to Shakespeare's Hamlet. For bringing to light an underestimated subject such as the addiction to virtual reality and social networks. For the protagonist's interpretation and intensity, a symbol of social uneasiness". It also won the Best Music Score Award by the Music Conservatory of Salerno for
the clever combination of several musical languages that have caught and highlighted the emotions conveyed by the images and by the narrative flow we are happy to give this award to the musical score of Suicide Room, a true and intense film dressed up in the sobriety of its music with the Mozart orchestra and piano theme or the more modern technical compositions such as the different layered sound.
- Suicide Hall, Poland, 2010. Written and directed by Jan Komasa, Cinematography: Radosław Ładczuk, Music: Michał Jacaszek, Art Direction: Katarzyna Filimoniuk, Animation: Olga Szablewicz-Pisuk, Adam Torczyński, Michał Lisowski, Costume Design: Dorota Roquelpo, Editing by Bartosz Pietras, Sound: Artur Kuczkowski. Starring: Jakub Gierszał (Dominik), Roma Gąsiorowska (Sylwia), Agata Kulesza (Beata), Krzysztof Pieczyński (Andrzej), Bartosz Gelner (Aleksander), Danuta Borsuk (Nadia), Piotr Nowak (Jacek), Filip Bobek (Marcin) Krzysztof Dracz (Minister), Aleksandra Hamkało (Karolina), Kinga Preis (Karoline's psychiatrist), Wiesław Komasa (school principal). Production: Film Studio Kadr - MediaBrigade - Odra Film. Co-financing: Polish Film Institute. Distribution: ITI Cinema. Display time 120 min. In cinemas beginning March 4, 2011.
Author: Konrad J. Zarębski, February 2011. Translated by Roberto Galea, February 2011