Set in a society vastly different from our experience, Taipei Suicide Story takes place in a hotel that willingly assists its guests with ending their lives. By providing a number of methods by which they may commit suicide, this place runs efficiently and effectively. However, when a hotel guest who is unsure about her life and death decision is discovered to have ‘overstayed her welcome’, a receptionist begins to break the rules of engagement and the two strike up an unusual friendship.
Directed by KEFF, Taipei Suicide Story is a surprisingly sweet and strangely funny look at the tension between life and death. Keeping his camera movements simple and his dialogue quiet, KEFF offers a sense of reverence for the lives lost, even if their passing takes place in a facility where it’s expected. In many ways, this hotel is a morgue, inviting guests to join in the gentle release of death. However, by using a warm colour palette, KEFF keeps this place feeling both welcoming and safe within its walls. Though the end result may be sad, this hotel feels just the opposite.
Anchored by heart-warming (and heart-rendering) performances by Vivian Sung and Tender Huang, Suicide Story speaks to the human need for intimacy and connection in a space where hope feels lost. After remaining in the hotel for an unexpected length of time, Sung’s character is looking for something. Whether it’s a reason to live or die is unclear, yet what is apparent is that she is sensing a deep loneliness. Her openness and emptiness connects deeply with Huang’s receptionist. To him, this place has always been about respecting the rules while others suffer. However, in this guest, something sparks. As the two grow closer, so too does KEFF use this story to speak to our human need for intimacy and the emotional void that is left without it.
Taipei Suicide Story premiered at Reel Asian Film Fest ‘21.