It was during the heady nineteen seventies that the story of five sisters rocked the whole world, and their short age shocked everyone when they decided to take their own lives. Despite multiple attempts to help them and psychological interventions, these girls had to recognize the harshness of society, the demands of adolescence, and the extreme punishments of parents for them to discover the unfairness of life.
They led a complicated and grim life at home, where they learnt necessary survival techniques, and this was exacerbated by the family’s reputation as misfits and eccentrics in their hometown.
The Lisbon family in that white picket fence neighborhood in the heart of US suburbia became the object of controversy when one morning the bodies of the deceased girls were discovered. They were found across the whole property, and their very deaths left everyone baffled as to why they decided to commit suicide. In the wake of the tragedy, the parents left everything behind, but the memories of Cecilia, Lux, Bonnie, Mary, and Therese, whose ages ranged between 13 and 17, remain in neighborhood’s history.
The novel The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides centers on the lives of these doomed sisters, and it was later adapted to film by Sofia Coppola in 1999. This first feature film by the talented American director broke the public’s silence and forever erased the “daddy’s girl” stigma she had carried for some time.
In this film, the young director who also masterminded Lost in Translation and Marie Antoinette, starkly addresses a bitter truth that can be viewed in two ways:
The negation of life is nothing less than the acceptance of other forms of transcendence.
Death is larger than life if the latter consists of lethargy with no foreseeable end.
These two pillars that are explored in the literary novel acquire an extraordinary meaning thanks to Coppola’s visual and auditory imagination. The film opens a palette of exquisite emotions that range from sweet rose tones to dark reds.
In the unmistakable aesthetics of Sofia, we find an intimate and delicate portrayal of fragile youths that are exposed to an obtuse, nostalgic, indifferent, and ultraconservative society. These girls are cast as crystalline pale shadows that undergo the torturous process of growing up amidst adults lacking in sensitivity, cruel peers, and a sense of hopelessness.
Aware of this encroaching horizon and a monotonous existence, the Lisbon sisters are the perfect example of a desperation that finds relief in what most people would see as a cowardly way out. However, in this portrayal we see the opposite, where the girls step into the realm of the eternal as a symbol.
The film version of The Virgin Suicides is both an unapologetic warning and poem of unusual elegance that sums up what we humans call “growing up.” It is the final point from a series of cruel and heartless attitudes of a society that is unwilling to understand the different or that which is beautifully discrepant.