Representations of Suicide in Japanese Cinema

Joseph Murphy murphy7312 at
Thu Feb 26 21:52:33 EST 2009

Dear Edel,
You might try Suicidal Narrative in Modern Japan, by Alan Wolfe  
(Princeton UP, 1990)  Though this book is about literature, it  
includes extensive discussion of the sociological literature on  
suicide from Durkheim on, and reflection on the way changing  
representations of different kinds of suicide in Japan (aestheticized,  
alienated) by western writers served to position Japan within  
different historical narratives in relation to the west. You may find  
that it lays some critical groundwork for you.
I also recall when Koreeda Hirokazu's Maboroshi no hikari won multiple  
prizes at the Venice International Film Festival in 1995, an Asahi  
Shinbun interview where he discussed encountering the European  
critical stance that there was something "beautiful" or aestheticized  
about the suicide in it.  He rather felt it represented the facts of  
alienation and depression and didn't understand what was beautiful  
about it.  There may be an intersection there, between the  
sociological facts of suicide and artistic depictions, and between  
Japanese and European interpretations, that you can use to spin the  
problem out.
J. Murphy

On Feb 26, 2009, at 6:48 PM, Edel Quinn wrote:

> Hi there,
> My name is Edel. I'm a Masters student at the Huston Film School, in
> National University  of Ireland. I am in the early stages of
> researching my thesis on Representations of Suicide in Japanese
> Cinema. The extent to which suicide is mentioned and depicted in
> Japanese arts has always interested me, especially since,
> statistically speaking, Japan's title of being one of the world's
> 'suicide nations' has only in recent years been warranted.   With this
> in mind I am looking at both contemporary and classical films and
> emphasis will be placed on how representations are made and whether or
> not there are links between cultural depictions and sociological
> trends.This will involve a discussion of traditional forms of
> committing suicide such as seppaku. Also Shinjyuu, the form of suicide
> committed among couples, to forms of familial suicides such as boshi-
> shinjyu along with more contemporary trends amongst young people in
> particular.
> I am also considering cross cultural analysis comparing western
> representations of Japanese suicide with Japanese depictions.
> However, I am having great difficulty finding resources on my topic.
> Obviously the fact that I am limited to English resources makes
> everything more difficult. I would be most grateful if anyone has
> encountered interesting texts, studies and films that deal with
> suicide in film generally and particularly within the Japanese  
> context.
> If anyone has any thoughts, opinions or ideas on how I should go about
> this study they would be most welcome! As I mentioned I'm in the early
> stages of my research so I'm still figuring out what direction to  
> take.
> Thanks so much for your time.
> Regards, Edel Quinn
> delquinn at
> May I commend Kine Japan organisers and contributors on continually
> insightful discussions!

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