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Suicide Room

Pic brings Poland its first look at emo culture but overplays its hand.

With:
With: Jakub Gierszal, Roma Gasiorowska, Agata Kulesza, Krzysztof Pieczynski, Bartosz Gelner, Danuta Borsuk, Filip Bobek, Kinga Preis, Anna Ilczuk, Bartosz Porczyk, Piotr Glowacki, Aleksandra Hamkalo, Krzysztof Dracz.

Humiliated at school, a spoiled Warsaw teen seeks solace in a sinister virtual world, the “Suicide Room.” While bringing Poland its first look at emo culture, helmer-writer Jan Komasa overplays his hand, throwing in a surfeit of storylines and overreaching on the “Hamlet” references, ultimately creating an unsympathetic protagonist whose fate doesn’t inspire much interest or many tears. Ironically, those apt to take the greatest interest in this youth-skewing material are the ones least likely to watch it in theaters, signaling that pic’s best bets outside Poland are with edgy fests or VOD.

During his prom, condescending rich kid Dominik (Jakub Gierszal) accepts a dare to make out with classmate Aleks (Bartosz Gelner). Cell-phone footage of their kiss is posted online with snarky comments. Later, Aleks reveals that Dominik had an erection during their judo match, giving rise to suspicions that he is gay — something his irritated parents dismiss, noting, “Even if you are, keep it to yourself.” Unfortunately, this realistic and compulsively watchable plotline, centered on school bullying and sexuality, gets left by the wayside.

Dominik refuses to return to school, locking himself in his room and virtually consorting with the mysterious masked Sylvia (Roma Gasiorowska), who turns out to be Queen of the Suicide Room. And as usual with queens, she expects her courtiers to obey her every command.

Replete with bizarre avatars, the pic’s slick animated segments convey the feeling of being inside an online sword-and-sorcery game. Far less watchable, however, is YouTube footage of a person self-cutting with a razor blade, and a man blowing his head off.

Equally over-the-top is the storyline involving Dominik’s parents: mother Beata (Agata Kulesza), a sharp-tongued, self-involved advertising CEO, and father Andrzej (Krzysztof Pieczynski), a pusillanimous politician. They seem to rep the Poland of the nouveau riche, where problems are solved by throwing money at them or ruthlessly dismissing staff.

Costuming and makeup for central thesps is on the nose, but their playing is cold and at times hysterical. Director Komasa obviously has talent, but here seems to have bitten off more than he can chew. Tech contributions are pro.

Suicide Room

Poland

Production: An ITI Cinema release of a Studio Filmowe Kadr production with support from the Polish Film Institute. (International sales: Level K, Fredriksberg, Denmark.) Produced by Jerzy Kapuscinski. Executive producer, Wojciech Kabarowski. Directed, written by Jan Komasa.

Crew: Camera (color, DV), Radoslaw Ladczuk; editor, Bartosz Pietras; music, Michal Jacaszek; production designer, Adam Torczynski; sound (Dolby Digital EX), Bartosz Putkiewicz. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Panorama Special), Feb. 12, 2011. Running time: 114 MIN.

Cast: With: Jakub Gierszal, Roma Gasiorowska, Agata Kulesza, Krzysztof Pieczynski, Bartosz Gelner, Danuta Borsuk, Filip Bobek, Kinga Preis, Anna Ilczuk, Bartosz Porczyk, Piotr Glowacki, Aleksandra Hamkalo, Krzysztof Dracz.

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