In ‘The Virgin Suicides,’ we get a peek into the lives of the mysterious Lisbon sisters and their even more mysterious deaths. The film traces the highs and lows in their lives before their unexplainable reason to take their own lives, leaving everyone wondering why they did it. The story is presented to the audience by a narrator who reveals their years-long obsession with the sisters and the mystery surrounding their sudden deaths. While his voice is our guide through this story, we never get to meet the narrator. Who is he, and how is he connected to the Lisbon sisters? SPOILERS AHEAD
The Narrator Represents the Obsession of the Teenage Boys
In the movie, the narrator is voiced by actor Giovanni Ribisi, who never appears on screen. He is credited simply as “Narrator,” which means that the film is not interested in specifically identifying him to the audience. His voiceover reveals that the events recounted in the film took place long ago, and the narrator and his friends still look back at the Lisbon girls’ case and wonder about the signs and portents they might have missed all those years ago, failing to get to the bottom of the case.
While it seems like the entire neighborhood is interested in the girls, the story narrows down to four to five boys who are more involved than most. Any of these boys, including the ones who take the girls to the homecoming dance (apart from Trip Fontaine), could be the narrator. The film could have easily assigned the name of any of these boys to him, but there is a reason the narrator remains anonymous.
‘The Virgin Suicides’ is based on the book of the same name by Jeffery Eugenides. He wrote the book from a first-person plural perspective, which means that the events are being reflected upon by a group of boys rather than a single boy. They are looking back at the girls and the events collectively, which is why “we” is used more frequently than “I” while addressing themselves. The same technique is used in the film to show that the narrator might have been voiced by a single person, but he reflects the collective experience of the boys who spent all these years spying on the Lisbon girls from a distance and then trying to piece together their psyche in the aftermath of their deaths.
Thus, the narrator is a reflection of a group of people rather than a single person, and assigning him a name would have limited that scope, making it a more personal experience of a single person rather than a shared obsession of a group of boys. The film also reveals that the boys weren’t the only ones who were left stumped by the girls’ death. The entire neighborhood, and later, when their death becomes a news story, the whole country, for that matter, wonders what happened behind the closed doors of the Lisbon family and what was going on in the minds of those girls. In that context, the narrator becomes the single voice of all these people, especially the ones who have not been able to let go of the case even after all these years.