Thursday, 19 January 2017

Why Did the Lisbon Girls Kill Themselves?

If you're obsessed with the Virgin Suicides like me, then that probably means that you are well and truly into the double digits of the amount of times you have viewed the film, or perhaps read the book about 3-4 times now.

Perhaps it is the classic and iconic tale that triggered your obsession. Or perhaps you could relate to the themes. Or maybe it was the beauty in the language and imagery.

For me, it was during the time I was becoming interested in directors and had just watched the Bling Ring featuring some of my favorite actors. It was an odd film, I'll definitely say that. But I loved it. Especially the directing by Sofia Coppola, so I began to look more into her films. That's when I stumbled across the Virgin Suicides.

I had heard about this story before and had seen images back in my Tumblr days, so I rented the move from the local video store and fell in love. It was the imagery that I first fell for. It is a beautiful film with amazing aesthetics and I loved how it contrasted with the overall themes in the narrative. It was a dark story but the photographic shots were so lovely; darkness behind it or not.

A few months later I began to relate to the film on more levels than having the urge to recreate the shots. I fell in love with the story itself, watched the movie a few more times before buying the book, and dwelling even deeper into the narrative.

The thing I love most about this story though is that despite the number of times I read the book or watch the movie, I notice and understand something I hadn't before, and feel one step closer to understanding the suicides but never quite.
And the fact that the story is told through the eyes of a group of boys who had fallen for these girls, tried to learn and understand them but could never get close enough contributed to the dreamy and roar-ness of the story that does not sugar coat the girls and their tale, but is so beautifully realistic. 

The following is my personal perspective and discussion on the reasons and causes of the Lisbon girls' suicides.

Both in the book and the movie we know that Cecilia, the first suicide to occur within the family, had an astrology mobile (quite like her father had an astronomy one). Unfortunately in the book it does not go into much detail on what particular signs are hanging from her roof, but in the film we see an M and a crab. These represent Virgo and Cancer - which I know due to my 'mild' obsession with astrology. From my understanding of Cecilia, and clearly Sofia Coppola's as well, I am more than certain that Cecilia was a Virgo Sun sign and a Cancer Moon.

Being a Virgo Sun meant that she cared about the environment and animals, which is extremely evident in the both forms of narrative. Cecilia cared about the world that was slowly deteriorating thanks to the help of man, also evident by her love for the elm tree in the front yard and the passages in her diary.
Being a Cancer Moon meant Cecilia was very emotional - the most emotional of the signs in fact. But the hard shell meant she did not exactly show it. Behind her quiet and calm exterior was an ocean of emotions that she never shared, resulting in her bottling it up before sending her over the edge (pun unintended).
Perhaps this is not the reason for the first suicide that then triggered the others, but I do believe it contributed greatly. And, well, it isn't hard to notice that her sister's and parent's didn't exactly meet Cecilia's emotional needs.

After Cecilia's death, much like the infected elms, it 'released a poison into the air', infecting the other sisters who soon follow in Cecilia's steps. This was my biggest and first belief for the reasoning behind the deaths. I believed that Cecilia and her illness was toxic, and being trapped in the house for months, the sister's had no way of escaping it. The residue of death, despite that the fence was removed for safety reasons, still stained Cecilia's bedroom and the house. I believe the dying elm trees, that if left, would pass its disease to the others was a metaphor in the story. 

Bu then I began to believe the most common cause of the sister's suicides was due to the lack of freedom and containment. The girls were trapped in the house, practically held captive from life and the fresh air thanks to their overly strict mother. Each of the girls had somewhat personal dreams. Mary wanted to be a sophisticated member in society. Therese wanted to be a scientist. And Lux wanted to live a life of fun and teenage mischief but all were deprived of this.
They wanted to travel and see the world, which we know from their frequent ordering of travel books. But had only their imagination to do the exploring. 

The only time we are told in the book that the girls were getting better was when they began to see the school therapist. It is conclusive then to our knowledge that the girls had no one. They had no friends. And in the end of the story the boys and their extreme obsession and love for the Lisbon Girls, never actually helped. They tried, I will give them that. They wanted to know them and they thought they had. But the tragic conclusion of the girl's lives made it evident that they didn't. And they didn't help. 

I still don't quite understand the exact reasons. But I think that is what is so lovely about the story. It really makes you think about mental illnesses and the act of committing suicide.
But maybe I have been looking at it all wrong. Instead of trying to find one reason, maybe there are many. And maybe that is the mistake the boys are making too.
Because there never really is one cause, is there? There's many. All overlapping and influencing each other in some way. Quite like life and all of life's experiences. 

Perhaps if the girls' had reached out more for help, it wouldn't have ended this way. I don't know.
And perhaps we never will. And neither will the boys who tried.  

I know that this is just a story. But this film and book really connects and inspires me. It really is within the top three of my favorite films (Easy A just coming in first). 
And if a story can erupt something more than entertainment from the viewer; make them feel something, think and wonder, then it is gifted. And it's the only thing I ever hope to be able to do as well. 

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