Director KEFF’s ‘Tapei Suicide Story” is one of the most somber dramas I’ve ever seen. It’s a film about life affirmation but also about the inevitability of death. Do we have control over our lives if we can control our own deaths? Are we merely embracing fate and are oblivious to it? “Tapei Suicide Story” is a very quiet and quaint drama that works on a very dark and inherently morbid premise.
Set in a Dystopian reality, we meet a young receptionist who works in a suicide hotel in Taiwan. In this hotel, the guests check in, decide their own fate, and commit suicide. The next day, he and the cleaning crew attend to their guests and continue the cycle. One day when he meets a young woman who intends to commit suicide. But when he finds out she’s reluctant to commit her task, he tries to convince her otherwise.
The movie sets up the Suicide Hotel perfectly to where we could imagine it being introduced to our society. KEFF doesn’t particularly paint a bright picture of life and living in Taiwan, as most of the exterior scenes is presented within desolate alleys with gray skies overhead. When they’re in the hotel, it’s a mostly sterile and cold environment similar to a Funeral home, as the designers of the hotel make almost zero effort to entice clients to feel any sense of warmth. The crew is so desensitized by their client’s final scenes, that the sight of a hanging corpse doesn’t faze either of them. It’s when the clients opt out of the suicide that they’re often shocked and sent in to disarray.
The film is mostly a two person piece with Yuhua Sung and Tender Huang presenting conflicting ideas about the value of life, and whether he realizes it or not, Huang’s receptionist is working toward convincing Sun to re-think her planned suicide. Even when they’re casually discussing their own lives, you can sense that this one person will grant him some departure from the bleakness of the suicide hotel. All things considered, KEFF opts for an ending that borders on ambiguous. While I appreciate some things being left for us to discuss, the climax to “Tapei Suicide Story” is much too cryptic to arouse anything but confusion. That said, KEFF’s dark drama is fascinating and compelling; it’ll definitely offer you something different in the realm of drama.
The Slamdance Film Festival is running virtually from February 12th to February 25th.