Saturday, May 3, 2008

Wristcutters: A Love Story (and other weird things one comes across as a suicidologist)

How many people do you know who study suicide? Probably not a whole lot. So I understand and even enjoy when everybody comes to me after encountering something related to the topic. I can't blame them when I'm the first person to come to mind, probably not a lot of alternatives. And the things they show me are often really interesting. I also figure, if nothing else, that I am at least allowing people to openly discuss this topic that would otherwise be taboo and unspeakable. But let me tell you, not everything I am shown is a gem.

Case in point: The Suicide Club. Now, my friends Isaiah and Steve are extraordinarily tolerant of my passion for books and movies related to suicide. They've watched more than their share with me, and I like to believe that I am similarly encouraging of their passions. But in this situation, I'm not sure I was entirely thankful for the recommendation to watch this movie after Steve had heard somebody talking about it. The Suicide Club is a VERY strange Japanese film in which hundreds of people kill themselves and fake blood pours forth in abundance. The ultimate point was that people were connected to each other, but they weren't really connected to themselves. Some interesting concepts in there, but the watching experience was traumatizing for us all, I think. And I've been subsequently unable to eat certain foods when rolled up to look skin-like as a result of this film.

Then, Steve told me about another film that was coming out called Wristcutters. I was hesitant, but curious. I mean, he knows I can't resist these things once I hear their titles, but did this one hold any more promise than the last? Admittedly, it was an extremely weird movie, but a considerable improvement from its predecessor.

Wristcutters does not leave you wondering about its name long: the movie opens with the main character, Zia, cleaning his apartment before slitting his wrists with a razor blade in his bathroom. Zia finds himself in an alternative world full of people who died by suicide. This world is remarkably similar to the world he chose to leave behind, but as he soon discovers, is a little worse. He ponders killing himself again, but fears where he might wind up next. After wasting his time away in bars, drinking and guessing how others killing themselves, Zia finds out that his ex-girlfriend killed herself a month after his own funeral. Armed with a new sense of purpose, Zia leaves behind his job at Kamikaze Pizza and takes off with his rocker friend Eugene in pursuit of ex-girlfriend Desiree.

In Zia’s encounters, the entire gamut of suicide types is portrayed: drowning, shooting, cutting, burning, gas, electrocution, etc. This is physically displayed through subtle differences in skin coloration and wounds, and pursued further through flashbacks to many of the character’s suicides. It is readily apparent that the people in this world did not want to live any longer, but have received no escape through their choices. In the alternate world, there is no smiling, it is obscenely hot, and the people are generally unpleasant. It is its own sort of hell.

The place is particularly unpleasant for Mikal, a hitchhiker that Zia and Eugene pick up, who claims that she was put there by mistake. She accidentally overdosed, but did not mean to take her own life. She wanders in search of the people in charge, hoping to be brought back to life. Mikal and Zia, through their travels, come to love each other. When Zia does find Desiree, she has joined a cult and seemingly lost her mind. Zia realizes that he has moved on, just in time for Mikal to find the people in charge and get a passport back to the land of the living.

Eugene, too, has fallen in love on the trip and left Zia behind. Once alone and purposeless, Zia has little to lose. It is at this point that he conveniently discovers the meaning of life. Zia realizes that the only way he can achieve things is if they do not matter; when he acts as though things are tremendously important, he ends up frustrated and without results. When he takes life as it comes, he finds that he can love and be happy even in a world of despair. Through these conclusions, Zia manages to return (through a mysterious whole-like void in Eugene’s car) to his hospital bed. He wakes up only feet away from Mikal’s bed, the two smile as they could not before, recognizing their new found reasons for living.

While Wristcutters is an often comical portrayal of suicide, it brings up a number of important philosophical points. Among them, what happens after death? This question and the uncertainty it yields likely stops a number of people from killing themselves. And again, while comedic, the movie is never glorifying. The portrayal of those who killed themselves is virtually always filled with regret and unhappiness with the results of their decisions. For those that end up in the alternate universe, many wish the uncertainty of what would come in death had stopped them as their “lives” get only worse after committing suicide. Zia and Mikal are fortunate enough to realize the mistakes they made and get a second chance at life and love, this time hopefully less numb and in greater appreciation of their surroundings.


Isaiah Vianese said...

Thanks (?) for reminding me of that unfortunate film... Now all of those images have come flooding back to me. What a traumatizing experience.

Isaiah Vianese said...

Oh, and I'm happy to see you doing such prolific writing on your blog. :)