There have been several positions about suicide. Arthur Schopenhauer depicted it as a lie even in a world marked by suffering. David Hume regarded it as a legitimate alternative that shouldn’t scare us to consider. Though we can agree or disagree with any of these extreme positions, we can accept with Albert Camus that suicide shouldn’t be a matter of little considerations.
The subject of suicide has not been strange to movie fans. There have been a significant amount of productions that explore it from its implications to its consequences. There also have been films centered around the suicide representation as a matter of aesthetic interest.
Below is a list of 15 films about suicide. Some of them met a warm reception from the public while others gained a considerable cult status that has made them obligated references of the topic. Most of them have been controversial from their release not only because of the hardness of their topic but also due to their way of depicting it.
15. The Bridge (Eric Steel, 2006)
Inspired by an article of Tad Friend on The New Yorker, the Bridge is a controversial documentary that captures the suicides at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge in the time span of a year.
Director Steel bet for a discrete shooting not only to avoid people who are willing to get a death covered by his team but also to get all the permissions he needed to carry on his project. He also interviewed relatives and friends of the people he shot without telling them about the footage he counted with.
While Steel faced charges for lying about his purposes, he assures that all the people he interviewed are currently happy about having taken part in his project. The Bridge was a box office hit and, though the press was unsure whereas call it sensitive or plainly insane, met overall acclaim.
14. Double Suicide (Masahiro Shinoda, 1969)
Regarded as an obligated reference of the Japanese New Wave Cinema, Double Suicide is a polished modern adaptation of The Love Suicides at Amijima, a Japanese puppet theater play by Monzaemon Chikamatsu about a couple of lovers driven to suicide due to the impossibility of their love.
Though the film’s classic story is no small matter to attract the viewers, the interesting thing about Double Suicide is its polished mixture of puppets and humans as well as its mix of modernity and classical theatricality. Double Suicide won three Kinema Junpo Awards for Best Picture, Best Actress and Best Director that year.
13. Girl, Interrupted (James Mangold, 1999)
Girl, Interrupted is an adaptation of Susanna Kaysen’s memoir that chronicles her 18-month stay at a psychiatric hospital after taking an overdose of aspirin.
The film met mixed reviews and detraction from Kaysen herself, who regarded it as unnecessary melodramatic. Nevertheless, Angelina Jolie’s performance was widely acclaimed as she won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
12. Ordinary People (Robert Redford, 1980)
Robert Redford’s directional debut couldn’t have been better. It follows the Jarrets, a family trying to continue with their lives after the death of a son, something that will get harder after their surviving son returns home after a failed suicide attempt.
The film is an acid drama that depicts how a tragedy can reflect the problems people are not willing to talk about: lack of communication, misunderstanding, fear etc.
Ordinary People met overall acclaim and won a considerable amount of prizes including the Academy Award for Best Picture.
11. Last Days (Gus van Sant, 2005)
This final installment of Gus van Sant’s Death Trilogy is meant to be based on famous rock star Kurt Cobain’s life. Nevertheless, Cobain’s followers regarded it as an insult to Cobain from the beginning.
Last Days, one of Gus van Sant most personal works, is a controversial tracing of the last days of Blake, a shy artist facing fame and desolation and eventually finding only one solution for a situation that has escaped from his hands long time ago. The film won the Technical Grand Prize at 2005 Cannes Film Festival.
10. Suicide Room (Jam Komasa, 2011)
Polish film Suicide Room is an experiment about the self-destructive teenage angst in an over-accelerated world.
The film focus on Dominik Santorski, an inept and ghastly teenager who increasingly escapes from the humiliations he suffers from the real world. Reclusive and committed to the virtual world, Dominik develops a close relationship with Sylvia, an openly suicidal girl with whom he’ll finally be able to criticize the real world he doesn’t seems to understand.
Among other recognition, Suicide Room won a prize from the International Federation of Film Critics, and several awards from the 14th Polish Film Awards.
9. Leaving Las Vegas (Mike Figgis, 1995)
Nicolas Cage offered one of his most known and beloved performances in Leaving Las Vegas, a romantic tragedy based on John O’Brien’s homonymous novel about a slow suicide. The film follows the conscious downward spiral of self destruction carried by Ben Sanderson, a suicidal alcoholic.
Quite interested in the prostitute (Elisabeth Shue), with whom he has just started a relationship, Ben seems to be willing to finish his life with the means that ruined him from the very beginning: alcohol.