A while back, I watched a rather intriguing Japanese horror film called “Suicide Club”. The plot centers around an impending wave of mass suicides that threaten Japanese society, creating a sense of mystery and a source of panic for authorities who desperately struggle to discover the roots behind these seemingly unmotivated deaths. The film was enjoyable because of how crazy weird it is, with some obscure, almost nonsensical ideas presented without any coherent explanation. As such, the film provides a perfect opportunity for me to go on a philosophical rant to make sense of ideas that wouldn’t make sense otherwise. Before I continue, I would like to disclaim that I do not share nor advocate some of the controversial themes explored by the film, and rather aim to present, as honestly as I can, my interpretation of what the film is trying to convey.
A recurring theme in the film is the notion of “connecting” with oneself. What does that mean, you ask? Well, in one climactic scene, which arguably defines the entirety of the film, a boy who belongs to the group behind the mass suicides speaks with a detective named Mr. Kuroda, who is involved in the mystery’s police investigation. The boy begins his cryptic monologue:
Do you understand? I understand our connection. I understand your connection to your wife. I understand your connection to your children. But as for your connection to yourself… If you die, will you lose the connection with yourself? Even if you die, your connection with your wife will remain. So will your connection with your children. But if you die, will you lose your connection with yourself? Will you love on? Are you connected to yourself? Why couldn’t you feel the pain of others as you would your own? Why couldn’t you bear the pain of others as you would your own? You are the criminal. You could only think of yourself. You’re the scum. Scum!
Before you brush the monologue off as some poorly translated, indecipherable nonsense, I will break it down for you from my own interpretations. In this pivotal scene, the boy questions Mr. Kuroda on the most fundamental questions about death. The core motivations of this conversation ask us to ponder our connections with those around us, the connections we have with ourselves, and the repercussions death has on these connections. The boy suggests that even in death, Mr. Kuroda will still be connected to his children and his wife, perhaps through their memories of him. The boy makes a point of asking, however, whether Mr. Kuroda will be connected to himself when he dies – a question that is repeatedly posed throughout the duration of the film.
In the film, masses of people commit suicide in an attempt to “connect” with themselves. There isn’t even the slightest hint of what this possibly could mean, but the suicides suggest the fact that one can only achieve a connection with themselves in death. By the end of the aforementioned conversation, Mr. Kuroda instantly takes a gun and commits suicide. So here I’ll ask, what does it mean to have a connection with oneself? Is it akin to some sort of self-actualized purpose like in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? What is the nature of this enlightenment, and what is the significance of this enlightenment being placed in a backdrop of thousands more pursuing the same state of being? Is it, in fact, the same state of being that is ultimately sought after?
The theme of attaining personal self-discovery through suicide becomes muddled when numerous people simultaneously partake in it, seemingly in order to belong to the larger group. However, a connection with oneself may perhaps only be achieved with the aid of connections to others. In this sense, strangers can come together to fulfill their desire to connect to themselves while helping each other discover the truth that they seek. When the boy speaks of Mr. Kuroda’s selfishness and inability to feel or bear the pain of others as he would his own, he is almost suggesting that joining the “Suicide Club” will help rectify his shortcomings. That is, understanding someone else’s pain involves taking a leap, in both a figurative and literal sense, through the accompanying mass suicides. It is unclear what role death has in all of this, but what is clear is that the mere act of mass suicide is what seems to draw countless people in. There’s almost an unstated sense of solidarity, an indescribable sense of belonging, as misguided as it may seem, that is both comforting and inviting to all that partake. In this situation, it is almost selfish and uncompassionate to not join in. What better way to connect with yourself and everyone else around you than in death?
This film ultimately demands the audience to reconsider preconceived notions about suicide and question what it actually meant to truly know yourself, offering the rather skewed idea that death allows you to stay grounded and rooted with you and everyone around you. “Suicide Club” also provokes you to consider the role of masses when it comes to your own ideals and personal feelings towards death and its elusive nature.