Set in the unnerving American suburbs, The Virgin Suicides, directed by Sofia Coppola and based on the book by Jeffery Eugenides, is a compelling narration of the Lisbon sisters’ short lives. Unlike most stories, The Virgin Suicides is told collectively, by a group of boys who had become obsessed with the sisters, falling in love with the girls in their adolescent naivety. Indeed they still do, unable to forget the sisters 25 years later. The girls’ story is pieced together with flashbacks; nostalgic experiences the boys had clung to, trying to understand the enigmatic Lisbon sisters (though never succeeding).
The story begins so: it’s the leafy Michigan suburbs in summer, the Lisbon family lives across the street; with their dad, a maths teacher at the local high school, dominated by their mum, an oppressive, devout Christian, and the five mysteriously beautiful golden-haired daughters (specifically Lux, the main object of desire, played by Kirsten Dunst). However, the summery feeling is soon eradicated with the scene of Cecilia (Hanna Hall) peacefully floating in a pink bath of her own blood, having slit her wrists in an attempted suicide. At the hospital, her doctor says: “What are you doing here? You’re not old enough to know how bad life gets.” To which Cecilia replies: “Obviously, doctor, you’ve never been a 13-year-old-girl.”
After an examination, the doctor suggests Cecilia should get some of the male company she and her sisters had so long been deprived of. So ensues the first and last of the sisters’ parties; an awkward, adult-monitored collection of teenagers making small-talk in the family basement. The same night Cecilia impales herself, jumping onto the fence outside her bedroom window.
The remaining girls return to school as if nothing had happened, and soon convince their parents to let them go to the school prom. Lux, of course, attracts heartthrob Trip Fontaine, while sisters Bonnie, Mary and Therese are auctioned off to three other boys. The prom scene is a hazy nostalgia fest, with the yearning and lust of adolescence. Later that night, Lux loses her virginity to Trip on the football stadium field, waking up alone. She arrives home the next morning, and her mum goes wild with rage, locking the girls in the house. They are forbidden to leave, and are taken out of school. The boys watch the decomposing Lisbon house across the street, waiting.
The Virgin Suicides is scarily fitting with this month’s theme; from the boyish hopes and dreams of the hormonal narrators to the sun-drenched cinematography and the dreaminess, the nostalgia, the disconnectedness of the plot itself, this film is simply an alternate form of summer. The Virgin Suicides is an unsettling teenage romance, and it will not fail to seduce you with its vivid immediecy and beauty.
After reading the book myself, I wanted to wait for the ‘perfect time’ to watch The Virgin Suicides. I thought watching it on my own or with the right friend would make the experience magical. For a few weeks I anticipated this time, waiting. Inevitably, I gave up on waiting and watched it. And I discovered that it was magical anyway.