director Matt Wolf
Adapted from the nonfiction book “Teenage: The Prehistory of Youth Culture: 1875-1945” by Jon Savage, the film Teenage offers a cut-up visual and audio of the evolution of the teenager in the modern world. The premise is that prior to labor laws and other societal changes, “teenagers” didn’t exist as such, certainly were not known as such. This cultural evolution was happening in many places in the Western world and the film focuses on Britain, Germany, and America.
It’s an interesting sociological phenomenon and story. I’d actually now be quite interested in reading the book.
The film is done in a sort of “oral style” where the only words spoken are those of teenagers from the varying generations, read by actors. The images are combinations of archival images and some images shot to blend in to look like archival pieces. I actually think that the archival images carry some power, in looking at the faces of the young from a century or more ago, as we hear their words read. The new footage isn’t done badly but, to me, it feels wrong.
The film suggests a broader scope than the book, but the story ends before the 1950’s when the modern teenager became a real, real thing.
It is interesting the way that as teenage delinquency became a thing, the kids who suddenly had time and awareness when that type of culture hadn’t previously existed. It’s interesting how the filmmakers focus on the German world during WWI and WWII, the disaffected youth first given a home and attention in the Hitler Youth, before it shifted into pure fascism. It’s interesting the analogues in the UK and America that were quite similar but didn’t go so horribly evil.
Really interesting ideas. Kind of think the book will be better.