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THE VIRGIN SUICIDES

About The Production

Adolescence, under any circumstances, is a bizarre event filled with curiosity, lust, desperation, dreams, madness, the rift between males and females, and the occasional brush with death. But to the boys of suburbia, the five troubled adolescent sisters become myth. Much more than mere neighborhood girls, the Lisbon sisters are living parables who evoke the depths of youthful passion and doom with their brief, incendiary lives. In their wild demise, they have become the sirens of teenhood, forever calling to the boys with their insoluble mystery.

The Lisbon mythology was created by novelist Jeffrey Eugenides, who forged the sisters as a lyrical allegory for our obsession with looking back on the lost innocence of youth and the first flush of love. Eugenides' bold novel, The Virgin Suicides, was a detective story without a solution - an inquiry into the Lisbon sisters' deaths by the boys who had fallen in love with them from afar. Although the boys dig up plenty of evidence, the whole affair remains deliciously, obsessively mysterious to the very end. Explains Jeffrey Eugenides: "The book laments not only the death of the girls but the passage of time, the loss of that baffling, romantic, highly delusional state of yearning known as adolescence. Americans of my generation tend to remain adolescents well into middle age, and that's exactly what my collective narrator does. They never get over it."

The novel won broad critical acclaim for its deft, poetic capturing of the journey from young lust to adult disillusionment. Not since Romeo & Juliet had adolescent suicide been used so broadly to explore life and love's mysteries, and not since Harold & Maude had youthful fascination with death held so much dark humor in its grip. Most of all. Eugenides' post-modem folk tale was celebrated for its uncanny tone: at once macabre and moving, wickedly humorous and wrenchingly true. The New York Times Book Review said that it possessed "the storyteller's most magical gift - the ability to transform the mundane into the extraordinary."

The novel certainly had a transforming effect on Sofia Coppola, who became intrigued with bringing Jeffrey Eugenides' novel to the screen with a faithful mix of suspense, innovation and emotion. Coppola's passion for the novel led her down the entirely unexpected path of first adapting it for the screen and then making her directorial debut. The chain of events was surprising, even for Coppola.

"I really didn't know I wanted to be a director until I read The Virgin Suicides and saw so clearly how it had to be done," says Coppola. "I immediately saw the central story as being about what distance and time and memory do to you, and about the extraordinary power of the unfathomable. It's about the big themes in life: about mortality and obsession and love. It isn't about romanticizing suicide. I never saw the Lisbon sisters or their acts as real and I don't think they were intended to be. The Lisbons are the figments of memory, these lovely mythical creatures of the imagination who are more beautiful than reality can ever be, so of course they cannot last."

Sofia Coppola fell in love with The Virgin Suicides, but it seemed in the beginning that making the movie was merely a dream. When she first read the novel, the movie rights were owned elsewhere and the project was already in development. But Coppola couldn't stop thinking about it, so at first, merely as an exercise, she began to write her own screen adaptation, staying faithful to the idea of a dark fantasia on suburban coming-of-age. Astonishingly, when she finished, the rights had lapsed and the screenplay won the deep admiration and enthusiasm necessary to bring it to the big screen despite the risks.

Although the novel relies on lyrical, incantatory prose, Coppola saw the tale of the Lisbon sisters as being very v

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