StudioCanal’s re-release of Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides gives the cult classic a whole new life with its 4k UHD restoration and an abundance of special features.
Adapted from Jeffrey Eugenides’ best-selling novel of the same name, The Virgin Suicides tells the story of Lux (Kirsten Dunst), Mary (A.J. Cook), Cecilia (Hanna Hall), Therese (Leslie Hayman) and Bonnie’s (Chelse Swain) untimely deaths through the eyes of an unnamed narrator. Recounting these events twenty-five years after the suicides it’s clear that although now an adult, the narrator has been unable to move on from the tragedy that occurred when he was a boy. The five Libson girls, who were under strict rule from their parents, are portrayed as enigmatic, ethereal, and untouchable. Although watched scrupulously in life, The Virgin Suicides seeks to understand the sisters who were never truly known. Now, with StudioCanal’s 4K restoration for the Criterion Collection you can experience Sofia Coppola’s dazzling directorial debut in high definition for the first time.
The Virgin Suicides begins in a Michigan suburb, where warm hues appear to paint the streets gold. Aided by the opening track “Magic Man by Heart”, The Virgin Suicides offers an opening like any other teen drama. But everything is not as it seems, because in the cold, steely blue of the Lisbon household, youngest sister Cecilia has attempted to end her own life. Spoken to by a doctor in the following scene, Cecelia’s told she’s ‘not old enough to know how bad life gets.’ When she responds with, ‘obviously, doctor, you’ve never been a 13-year-old girl,’ The Virgin Suicides establishes its intent to explore the existentialism of teenage angst.
Coppola’s debut feature isn’t a typical mystery, as it’s known from the outset what the fates of the Lisbon girls are. Instead, the mystery is the girls themselves, who are watched devotedly throughout their short lives but never really seen. Their parents, who are religious and strict, do put limitations on their freedoms, but their fears for their daughters are not foreign to the ones any parent has for their child. Are the Lisbon girls revolting against their oppression or do they simply want to remain forever young? These unanswered questions linger in the minds of the men who, as boys, lived across the street from the Lisbon girls. They simply can’t move on, and as the end credits roll, neither can we.
At the centre of the narrative is a young Kirsten Dunst, whose role in The Virgin Suicides solidified a strong working relationship with Sofia Coppola (the two went on to work together on Marie Antoinette and The Beguiled). Here, Dunst plays the elusive Lux Lisbon who easily flits between being her mother’s little angel to rebellious teenager eager to break free. Dunst is joined on screen by Cook, Hall, Hayman, and Swain, who each play one of her sisters. Each performance depicts the girls as passive until their deaths, but each Lisbon girl feels distinct in their characterisation. Their mother, played by Kathleen Turner, is intimidating in her commandeering of her daughters. James Woods’ Mr Lisbon is complaisant, but overall, much softer around the edges.
Unnamed and unseen, the narrator of The Virgin Suicides is an unreliable one. The girls are portrayed in a romanticised fashion, although there is no way to prove this representation was accurate. Dream-like sequences pinched from the narrator’s imagination are now more vivid than ever in this 4K ultra high-definition restoration, as the overlapping images converge together to create scenes that feels utterly intoxicating. Aided by Air’s soundtrack, Coppola makes small episodes within the day-to-day action that are transportive to the viewer and that capture the idealisation of the boys next door.
Although it’s Coppola’s first film, The Virgin Suicides is both her most impactful and timeless work. Now with special features including a new interview with JB Dunckel and Nicolas Godin from Air, a behind-the scenes look at the making of The Virgin Suicides, and Lick The Star (1998) short film, you can delve into the world of The Virgin Suicides like never before.
A new 4k restoration of The Virgin Suicides will be available to watch on Blu-ray, DVD and, for the first time in the UK, on 4K UHD and Digital from 13 March, 2023.