The Virgin Suicides – 1999

the-virgin-suicidesA portrait of the darkness brought on by a pretence of light. Five girls live in a small Michigan town in a middle-class Christian family. From the opening titles you can predict the cynical tone of the film. A tree is rotting. It must be taken down before the poison spreads. In a way, this is all the film is. The story of a cruelly imposed natural selection. That which is broken, poisoned, too twisted by external influences must fall away and die.

However what is more unsettling is the idea of this film as a portrait of femininity. The girls are seen as ethereal, beautiful creatures even in their most depraved moments. The teenage boys who find them admit that they cannot possibly understand. It is this refusal to comprehend their struggles, the fact that they even have struggles, that they are not untouchable angels ultimately leads them to their deaths. The performances from all five girls are extraordinary. You see the life slowly fade from their beings long before it leaves their body. The script rarely allows the sisters to interact with one another and so slowly even the audience begins to see the girls in terms of silent wisps rather than real humans with thoughts and emotions.

The cinematography reinforces this disturbing gracefulness. Everything is white and pure, often oppressively so, whenever the girls are in shot. Without them the film is sedated and dark, a tragically ironic artistic decision. Kirsten Dunst as Lux is enthralling. Only she seems immune to the silence and naivety taking over her sisters. Yet this leads you to wonder whether she was the root of all this, had she not been so markedly different would any of them have suffered? We do not know, the film allows us to question this as if it were real life. We are equal to the characters on screen, watching the tragedy, powerless to understand or end it.


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