The Suicide shop/ Le magasin des suicides (2012)… the French take on the desensitization of modern society


The Suicide Shop

My rating: 8

IMDB rating: 6.1

IMDB link:

Dearest reader,

It’s been years since animation was only made for children and no movie shows this more clearly than The Suicide Shop. The movie is based on the 2006 black comedy novel by Jean Teulé. Black comedy, is a type of comedy that makes light of subject matter that would normally be considered as serious.

Black comedy is actually a very interesting field of study. When comparing South African literature to, for example, European literature it becomes clear that there is a huge divide in things that we find funny. South Africa, being a very Calvinistic society, would never incorporate black comedy in any of our literary mediums. We are still very conscious of the fact that there are simply some things, for example religion, abortion, euthanasia, suicide, etc., that you simply do not talk about, let alone joke about it.

Therefore, for me, this movie was quite refreshing. I have to say that animation for adults is another idea that rather fascinated me. There are so many different issues discussed in this film, of which suicide is mere one small part.

The first of these are, of course, the desensitization of humankind. The glorification of suicide through the emphasis on the release of death, shows how not only the characters in this animation, but our society as a whole has become desensitized. In fact, death is commercialized by using the idea of a shop where you buy the means to your suicide and a guaranteed death or, as they say, your money back!

The people who run this shop, ironically, are the only ones who are not allowed to die. They believe that they perform an important service and is proud of the service they render. It is also a family business and soon they, ironically enough (because why would severely depressed people have more children?), have another child. I think this ironic contradiction is another comment on the human condition; we are only pseudo-depressed. We are so in love with our pain, that we cling desperately to our depression, whether it is justified or not.

This child changes their whole life, by being happy. The child then shows his family what it means to have joy. The way he sees people inspire them to be better than they are and he manages to free his father from the suicidal cycle that he needs to embark on daily. All of this is a comment on the pessimistic, gloomy, pseudo-depressors that we and our society have become.

There is one scene in particular, that to me, really struck a chord. While the happy boy is walking home with his father one evening, smiling and laughing, his father hands him a packet of cigarettes to get him to be quiet. He tells the boy to inhale very deeply and the boy quite enjoys it. It made me wonder what we sometimes poison our children with in order to drown out their joyful spirits, just because it does not resonate with our depressive state that we so often ascribe to ‘life experience’.

There is also the absurd law that no one may die on street. This film that fits nicely into the existentialist framework, through this, also show the absurdist tradition that also became popular during the time of Sartre. The one character asks exactly the question on everyone’s mind, but why would he worry if he gets a fine, he would be dead? But this is exactly the type of thing the absurdists would like one to reflect while viewing this film.

The Gothic-type of animation supports these themes and, to me, fits with the whole idea of an animation for adults. I truly did not know that there are so many ways to commit suicide or that there are even so many options in terms of poisons, but I think that this film handles the sensitive subject matter very effectively.

Want some more thoughts on The Suicide Shop? Try these…



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