Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Tuva Novotny, Kate Ashfield, Robert Aramayo, Jan Bijvoet
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… compelling in a grim, icy, existential sort of way.
Suicide remains one of the more taboo subjects in media, which ironically is what makes it such fertile ground for artistic exploration. Of course, it’s easy to skew into the maudlin, or melodramatic, if the artist in question isn’t up to the task. In the case of Jonas Alexander Arnby’s Suicide Tourist, we’re certainly looking at a valiant attempt, even if the message ultimately seems a little muddled.
Suicide Tourist tells the tale of Max (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), an insurance agent who is going through an existential crisis. It soon becomes clear this isn’t just a midlife indulgence, rather Max has an inoperable brain tumour. He’s looking at a potentially very painful, undignified, death and he’s understandably not delighted by this development and wants to spare his partner, Lærke (Tuva Novotny) the horror of it all. So Max contacts a clandestine assisted suicide facility called Hotel Aurora. At first it seems a superior, merciful option, however, like Hotel California, at this joint you can check out any time you want, but you can never leave.
Suicide Tourist benefits greatly from the gorgeous direction of Arnby, who gave us 2014’s When Animals Dream. It overflows with gorgeously composed shots and striking imagery. It’s also extremely deliberately paced, delivering an experience that on occasion verges on the somnambulistic. It’s not an easy watch either, dealing with themes of futility and mortality, although pretty much everything that occurs at Hotel Aurora is gripping in a slow burn way. Suffice to say, Suicide Tourist won’t be for everyone, nor is it trying to be.
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau delivers an extremely effective performance as poor Max, and is capably supported by Tuva Novotny and a stunning turn from Kate Ashfield who plays a “fake mother”, roleplaying for patients to help them accept their deaths. This is a dark tale indeed, and while its conclusion doesn’t quite satisfy, it’s certainly compelling in a grim, icy, existential sort of way. If that sounds like your jam, have at it, but perhaps bring along a nice stiff drink.