The Virgin Suicides, an indie marvel upon re-watch


The Virgin Suicides, dir. Sofia Coppola (1999)

Sophia Prichard, Sr. Editor

Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides, inspired by the book of the same name by Jeffrey Eugenides, masters the delicate balance of intimacy, keeping the audience close to the Lisbon sisters, while keeping them away from the truth of why they are so self-destructing. The audience is allowed speculation into the truth, and yet it’s never revealed. You get to know each of the sisters, especially Lux, but only through the understanding of the narrators, the teen boys who live in the same neighborhood of the Lisbon’s, which is likely why the sisters feel so real. Being able to know them through what you’re hearing from someone else, reminds the audience of someone they might go to school with, someone you don’t know, but have heard about.

The second-hand storytelling gives the feeling of reality, but with that realism comes the misunderstanding of who the sisters are beneath the surface. It’s implied that the sisters are traumatized by their religious upbringing and strict parents, but it’s all guesswork. Lux may seem so open, with her romantic life on full display to the neighborhood boys, but she’s treated as an object of affection, rather than a person. Her relationship with Tripp Fontaine, for instance, lasts for barely two weeks, and yet Tripp constantly claims to be “in love” with her, forming an obsession with the idea of her, and then leaving her alone after she’s served her purpose to him. The telling of someone’s story through other’s perspective gives insight to how Coppola weaponizes the male gaze in the film. The male gaze, or the idea of the male perspective looming into how we view our media and ourselves, dissociates the perspective of women and their experiences from their own selves. Viewing yourself through the guise of men, a common detriment to teenage girls especially, separates yourself from what you look like, how you’re perceived.

It is the perception of girlhood through the perspective of a man that continues through the film. The angst and pain of the Lisbon sisters is ignored, in favor of how their suicides affected the men in their lives. It is repeated, over and over, how the sisters are deemed a mystery to the neighborhood boys, and the narrator states at one point that despite the tragedy of the Lisbon home, the town eventually moves past it, and the story turns into a fun party anecdote, treated like gossip instead of a genuine problem. It is a luxury, to move past the tragedy of five girls dying, because no one in the town truly grieves, because no one really knew them.