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Recommended Re-Viewing: 20 Years On, 'The Virgin Suicides' Is No Coming-Of-Age Drama. It’s A Ghost Story

Sofia Coppola’s directorial debut is more haunting with every watch

the virgin suicides
Paramount Pictures

Recommended Re-Viewing is a series in which we make the case for re-watching an old film or TV series which you can stream without leaving your house. It might be a plot that's so bad it's good, a scene which deserves more interrogation or a director's underrated gem.

As 'The Virgin Suicides' turns 20 next month, digital style editor Murray Clark is still haunted by the unlikely phantoms of the elusive Lisbon household.


As the lovelorn neighbourhood boys of The Virgin Suicides look longingly onto the Lisbon family fortress, it’s not a dream home safeguarding a mythic sense of lust-charged purity. At best, this soulless suburban non-entity is a gilded cage. At worst, it is a house of horrors; a haunted one, and a den of pure terror forever scorched into my retinas.

im电竞官网-Don’t let the dreamy, golden shots of a young Kirsten Dunst fool you. For at its heart, Sofia Coppola’s adaptation of Jeffrey Eugenides’ debut novel – and a very faithful adaptation it is – recounts a tale of slow-building dread that puts Henry James to shame. This chilling tone is immediately set, too. In the pale morning light of a Seventies Michigan neighbourhood, the lifeless body of a young girl is wheeled out by paramedics all too familiar with this home: Mary, the last Lisbon daughter to kill herself. "Sleeping pills, like Therese," says the anonymous, collective narration of the boys who ogle and obsess from afar.

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The Virgin Suicides im电竞官网-is, ultimately, about suicide and its effects upon the immediate world around it. But the deaths of the Lisbon Sisters are viewed through an almost magical lens. The boys who love them are quick to canonise each sister. Items the girls touch become relics: a bloody tarot card of the youngest, Celia, dropped following her failed first suicide attempt; a box of diamond white tampons tightly-packed into the bathroom cabinet. Like conspiracy theorists, they wile away the hours conducting interviews and gathering evidence to search for an answer. Such are the strange rituals of adolescence (and indeed, the strength of Coppola at so deftly portraying them).

the virgin suicides
Paramount Pictures

im电竞官网-But the gold dust that coated the surfaces of my teenage-hood has been wiped clean. In wiser, older times, the romantic snaps of the Lisbon sisters are more feverish, a maddening depiction of how maddening growing up can be. The tropes of classic horror run thick and fast: spectral girls in white dresses that are rarely seen; over-bearing parents (exceptionally played by James Woods and Kathleen Turner) that inflict a particularly cruel brand of religious hysteria; Dunst as the most carnal sister, Lux, fornicating with townie boys on the roof that are never seen again like a pint-sized succubus.

It all takes place within the four walls of a house that slowly turns haunted, decaying as the horrors of suicide wage on, an unkempt garden spoiling the pristine lawns of Middle America, and one very important (and very grisly) iron railing fence eventually torn down for what it reminds the world of. Upon the Lisbon suicides, it becomes a standing monument avoided by eyes, but much discussed by bored suburban tongues – a notion well-captured in the film's documentarian style. And like all good houses of horror, it fails to sell, the stain too great for most prospective buyers, the superstition of death too great. Perhaps in the most Hitchcockian turn, the wicked truths are are both figuratively and literally hidden inside the family home. We rarely see the domestic abyss beyond the front door, Mr and Mrs Lisbon keen to obstruct even the audience from reaching their precious wards. That is classic horror at its purest.

The neighbourhood boys freely admit that they're still haunted by the atrocities that take place: the melancholy, waifish girls in white invading their dreams forever more. I know how they feel. Almost 20 years after its release, The Virgin Suicides still haunts me too.

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