Suicide Circle (2001)

Directed by
Pretty intense
Reviewed by Simon on 2003-02-21

SUICIDE CIRCLE is another Japanese movie that's gaining notoriety for pushing the limits of film violence ever further. In recent years we've had Audition, Battle Royale, Versus, Ichi The Killer and now this.

One day in May, 54 happy and healthy Japanese school girls line up along the platform of a Shinjuku subway station and simultaneously throw themselves under a speeding train, in an opening sequence quite unlike any other. Gruesome hardly begins to describe the scene. Thankfully the low budget doesn't allow them to show the carnage in *too* much detail. A little later in the day, two nurses throw themselves out of a hospital window for no particular reason.

The police are mystified - the body count is rising and no particular connection between the victims is apparent... no motive or pattern. But a phone call tips them off to a strange website that counts the suicides... before they happen. This raises the question "are they really suicides at all?"

SUICIDE CIRCLE is part horror movie, part detective mystery, part social criticism, part philosophy and mostly very strange. The director apparently normally directs gay porn for a living, so it's not surprising that he brings a different set of rules to his feature film than the average movie maker. The film is decidedly confrontational, presenting a complicated structure that opens up lots of questions and rarely lets out any answers. Why would these people commit suicide? The film challenges you to look for the answer inside yourself, rather than handing you some neat solution. The movie perhaps suffers from being too obtuse, but not at least from being too conventional.

The movie has been compared with BATTLE ROYALE, which is not entirely unreasonable given the themes and overall shock factor. SUICIDE CIRCLE is definitely not in the same class, but then it didn't have a director with the talent and experience of Kinji Fukasaku. Like BATTLE ROYALE, the violence and gore is likely to be the thing that gets the movie the most infamy. Not quite as much on display here, but some seriously OTT blood and guts in places. Not for the faint of heart or stomach. The acting is probably the place where the quality gap is widest between the two movies - Fukasaku gets fantastic performances from his entire cast, but Sion Sono gets average to downright poor performances from his. He's sometimes directing kids as young as 5 or 6 though, which has got to be harder work.

Various things like the acting keep SUICIDE CIRCLE from being a great work, but it is definitely an interesting and unique one. Plenty of blood and guts and a little bit of food for the mind as well. The message and meaning here isn't sufficiently deep (or clear) for me to recommend the movie to anybody that would have a hard time getting past the shock moments to appreciate it. For those who like a little carnage with their breakfast, though, this is the latest one to watch, and is somewhat recommended.