Review: Suicide Tourist
by Marta Bałaga
- Denmark’s Jonas Alexander Arnby delivers a mystery-drama that’s more drama than mystery, but all class nonetheless
The decision to have his film revolve around so-called “suicide tourism” – as in the still very controversial practice of having people travel to places where they can end their lives, usually with some professional assistance – was already bound to generate some unwanted buzz around Jonas Alexander Arnby’s latest effort, shown in the glamorous Gala Premieres section of the Zurich Film Festival, only to jump right into the merry mayhem of Sitges. Then again, Suicide Tourist [+see also:
interview: Jonas Alexander Arnby
film profile] doesn’t try to hide its subject at all – hence the title, one presumes – and for all its undoubted weirdness, not an inch of it is designed to trivialise such a desperate, or perhaps well-informed, decision. Not to mention the fact that it knows better than to tell you which one it would be.
Arnby – once again working with writer Rasmus Birch, who was also behind his debut, When Animals Dream [+see also:
interview: Jonas Alexander Arnby
film profile], about a girl coming to terms with her inner werewolf – doesn’t really seem interested in shocking revelations here, unlike, say, a similarly themed Jack Reacher novel called Make Me, although that might be one reference this writer should probably have kept to herself. More than solving any elaborate mysteries, he appears to care more about the actual grief involved. Said feeling is palpable throughout the whole story thanks to everyone’s favourite Game of Thrones heartthrob with a penchant for child defenestration, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, and his affecting, de-glamorised turn (which, in the case of men, usually means oversized 1970s frames and a pornstache, for some reason), ably accompanied by one Tuva Novotny. Frankly, there is so much affection and intimacy in their every on-screen interaction as a happy couple that is suddenly happy no more, that you don’t even need all the answers.
Even so, there are plenty of questions to pose for sure, as while looking into the sudden disappearance of a client, an insurance investigator discovers an unusual place: the remote Aurora Hotel, a state-of-the-art resort in the mountains that’s not exactly your usual spa. Far from it, actually: it’s a place where troubled people go not to find their inner Zen, but to die. Predictably, walk-ins are not welcome, but Coster-Waldau’s Max is already in an unenviable position that helps his “request to be approved”, although the fact that once you have signed the agreement your decision can’t be annulled, or even postponed, should probably have raised some red flags.
Then again, while things could easily go pleasantly trashy from there, Arnby keeps a serious face. His approach is contagious, especially as from certain things there is just no escape, and the brutal realisation of an upcoming, unavoidable loss might sometimes be harder than the loss itself. He thus proves, for the second time already, that genre tropes work best when combined with real, raw emotion and struggles that everyone can recognise – and which no pornstache can hide. Here’s to seeing what he does next.
Suicide Tourist is a Danish-Norwegian-German-French-Swedish co-production staged by Eva Jacobsen, Mikkel Jersin and Katrin Pors for Snowglobe, DCM, Mer Film, Charades, Film i Väst and Garagefilm International. Its international sales are handled by Charades.
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