Directed and written by Sofia Coppola
★ Kirsten Dunst, A.J. Cook, Hanna Hall, Leslie Hayman, Chelse Swain
Much has been said about Sofia Coppola's directorial debut, and what I have heard has in particular been full of praise - even love - for The Virgin Suicides. If you want to read some more of that, stay tuned.
Though told from the perspective of a group of male teenagers, whose obsession with the five fairy-like Lisbon sisters never ends even after they've grown up, The Virgin Suicides is primarily a film by and for women. More specifically, girls. Unlike most films revolving around female adolescence, the film seems entirely honest and outright, displaying feelings and actions that I could relate to without exception. While there are certain elements all of them have in common, the five sisters are also quite different from one another, and thereby add up to a uniquely expressive illustration of life as a teenage girl. The main focus lies on the two youngest sisters, Lux and Cecilia - at first I found this a little unfair, until I realized that it would have been close to impossible to fully picture the characters of each sister. Somehow, this adds up to the whole mystery surrounding the sisters, too.
As Cecilia dies at the beginning of the film, Lux is the character we see most of. She is different from her sisters in many ways, surely franker and more mature, though naive too. In a way, her life is perhaps the most interesting one - at least during the period that is depicted in the film, which makes me believe it was a good choice to focus on her. She is a little more rebellious than her sisters, a little less dreamy, but still just as sad, I think.
A dash of comedy is added to the film by the character of Trip (played by Josh Hartnett), a high school playboy who falls in love with Lux. I just couldn't see how anyone would find him very attractive, but then again, there was something about him... He's certainly part of my picture of an american high school - along with prom, which by the way seemed very realistic in the film.
Part of the humour of the film lies in the details though, as for example the way we see Lux' underwear on which she has written Trip's name, beneath the prude dress her mother made her wear.
Speaking of the parents, they are an important element in the cause-effect-chain that finally leads to the girls' suicide. The housewife mother seems to be the main source of trouble, obviously domineering over her husband in their strongly religious marriage. This is an interesting paradox that makes the strict upbringing of the girls seem even more morbid and irrational. Not surprising that the girls escape into a fantasy world of their own, especially little Cecilia whom I felt with the most. The way she looked at people with her big, sad eyes was just heart breaking.
I liked the passages that were read from her diary, and the way they were visualized in the film. The beautiful evening summer sun and the fields in the country were perfect for that.
Another stylistic element of the film that I adored is the kittenish handwriting font that is used in both Cecilia's diary, the intro credits and the trailer. When it comes to style, Sofia Coppola is one of the best directors, in my opinion. She sometimes reminds me of Jane Campion, but I find her a little more youthful and contemporary, which is why I would always prefer her over Campion. Thinking about it, Coppola is one of my favourite female directors at all, and she has proven this once more with The Virgin Suicides. Even the choice of music is phenomenal - from poppy tunes to melancholic ones, it is a perfectly bitter-sweet soundtrack of coming of age.
So I guess my conclusion is that The Virgin Diaries is an amazing film that not only every teenage girl, but also every film enthusiast, needs to see. Preferably more than once.
And that I'm growing more and more obsessed with it the more I think and read and write about it. For health reasons I will at least stop writing now.