Ben Peek (benpeek) wrote,
Ben Peek

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The Bourne Suicide

On Sunday night, I ended up watching the Bourne Ultimatum, the final in the three Jason Bourne films. It picks up directly after The Bourne Supremacy, so if you haven't seen the second film, it's probably best you do. My friend told me I should watch it beforehand, and I did, though I doubt you need to have watched the film before, since all the Bourne films are a retread of the same plot.

I don't really have much to say about either film, except that they're competent in what they do, but you won't remember either long after you've left. You got a spare Sunday night going, there are worse ways to spend your time.

What struck me, while watching the second film, however, was just what a cheap narrative trick suicide is. In the second film, Brian Cox, who plays the Prime Shadowy American Operative With Secrets (as he did in the first film), has the idiotic idea of connecting his plan to make illegal millions to the Amnesiac Killer Seeking Redemption for Half Remembered Evils in Hiding, Matt Damon. His plan is to frame him for a murder. Now, ignoring the simple stupidity of that concept, there comes a point, towards the end of the film, when the Amnesiac Killer Seeking Redemption Who Is No Longer in Hiding gathers the evidence he needs from Cox's character to clear his government assassin name, and leave the Prime Shadowy American Operative ruined. At this point, however, the Prime takes a gun, places it against his head, and shoots himself out of the film. The problem with this, of course, is that nowhere within the film do you get the idea that Cox's character, when pushed, will react this way; rather, throughout the film, you have this sense of desperation from him, this sense that when he is faced with a crisis, he will lash out at those around him--which he does, of course, in trying to have the Amnesiac Killer killed, bullying Joan Allen's Believer in America, and snapping the neck of The Innocent Associated with The Believer when he stumbles upon the plot. But, when presented with a tape recording of his own confession, Cox then waits until confronted by Allen to kill himself.

And I thought, as I watched that, "Who wrote this shit?"

And then I thought, "When was the last time I saw a convincing suicide in a movie?"

In fact, I'll move it moreso: when was the last time I saw a convincing suicide portrayed, anywhere?

Which, of course, has lead me to thinking that suicide, in fiction, is such a cheap narrative tool. It's a way to give a sudden, quick, and relatively clean end to your antagonist and the conflict he or she causes within a plot, because, once a character has suicided, their conflict is often reduced to either a simplistic one two, or is just removed from the fiction. It's almost the opposite of suicide in reality, wherein the family and friends who are left after the suicide, are left with the messy, difficult situation in which they are trying to make sense of it. Of course, there are fictions that do deal with this--but here, to the best of my shaky, early morning recollection, the suicide often starts the film, so it's credible portrayal is never needed. But so often you see suicide is a suitable end for villains, as if their moral corruptibility within the plot somehow allows for the audience to understand that, yes, of course, they will respond to any difficult situation by taking their own life, an action in today's society that is considered cowardly and reprehensible by most.

So, I am now on the look out for fictions that give convincing portrayals of suicide. I'm sure they're out there. I have never before thought, I want to read convincing suicides, but I do, now, and so I am looking for narratives in which the main character (or a main character) reaches a point in the text where the only answer, the only logical outcome for him or her, is suicide.
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