SLAMDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2021 REVIEW! Director/ writer KEFF proves a talent to watch with Taipei Suicide Story, a slow and meditative take on what, if anything, we owe strangers going through a crisis. In a world where a suicide hotel is akin to a love hotel, and where one checks in to check out (for good), an arrogant hotel receptionist, Shi Yi (Tender Huang), is confronted with the nuisance of an unwanted guest (Vivian Sung).
Essentially a two-hander, the unwanted guest has overstayed her welcome by not deciding immediately whether to die or to live. Finding herself in limbo, she has been enjoying the amenities while trying to figure out which side of the fence she is on. Shi Yi has worked at the hotel for some time, and like the other employees, just wants to get the unseemly jobs done – yet, the guest catches his eye.
Taipei Suicide Story is short, so to describe more would be a disservice to viewers. Much could be made of the setting of a suicide hotel, as well as how it operates, but perhaps KEFF is right to leave us wanting more. I appreciated the aloof nature of some of the workers at the hotel: their dispassionate attention to their duties of clean-up and corpse removal really begs the question of whether or not suicide could be made into a ‘socially conscious’ and capitalistic venture – at which point, the well-being of the workers (and clients) would give way to the need to make a profit.
“…the unwanted guest has overstayed her welcome by not deciding immediately whether to die or to live.”
The movie forces us to contemplate what we owe a stranger who is presumably ending their life. How should we treat them? Should we buy them a last meal? Should we enjoy our time with them? Should we impose our expectations and our desires on them, or should we leave them alone with the hope that they can make the appropriate decisions? I would have appreciated an ambiguous ending that left us to our devices, but what we get is still important to consider.
In any case, Taipei Suicide Story is a conversation starter, and that is high praise. For anyone triggered at the mention of suicide, you would be wise to pass on the title, as the film does not shy away from the corporate mundanity of a suicide business and the high price people ultimately have to pay as a result of a lack of mental health treatment.
Taipei Suicide Story screened at the 2021 Slamdance Film Festival.
"…slow and meditative take on what we owe strangers going through crisis..."