US, 2008, 122 minutes, Colour.
Esra Miller, Jeremy White.
Directed by Antonio Campos.
An accomplished film by 24 year old Antonio Campos who had made a number of short films, including Buy Me Now, which received some international commercial release. This first feature film is much more ambitious.
We are in a privileged school (and the director draws on his own experience – and includes his own preoccupations in his central character) with some old-fashioned stances and regulations. However, Robert is a serious, rather introverted boy who likes looking at You Tube kinds of clips, some realistic, some violent and many pornographic. He is a friend to his more outgoing roommate, David.
All students have to be involved in an afterschool sport or project and he chooses video.
However, his life becomes more complicated as he is attracted to Amy, one of the students, is aware of drug-dealing in the school and comes across twins who are dying through drug trouble. This haunts him. Part of his afterschool work is to make a tribute in video to the two girls but his teacher lambastes his efforts (it has no music!) and a more respectful and sentimental video is made and shown to the school.
Robert is tense, fights with his roommate, is tested by the counsellor and warned by the principal. What will his future be? Which is where we are left. But, the picture of this school life, the characters and their immaturity and development are worth seeing. The film is measured in it style – Campos says he does not like hand-held intrusive camera techniques. He says he tends to see life as in a composed frame. This gives them film a calmer and deeper atmosphere.
1.The work of a young director? Drawing on his own experience? Insight into adolescence? Education? Contemporary attitudes?
2.The location, the school, exclusive, the buildings, the rooms, the hall? The surroundings? The musical score? The cinema style – fixed camera, slow rather than hand-held motion?
3.The title, the reference to activities after school, sport, projects? The video project about the twins?
4.The opening credits: the clips, home movies? The transition to the Internet? The pornography sites? Behaviour? The humiliation of the woman on screen by the unseen man?
5.The portrait of Robert: his age, background, lack of information about his growing up? His watching the video clips and his preference for them over movies? His watching the pornography? Its effect, adolescent response? His cover-ups when his roommates arrived? His relationship with the roommates, Trevor and the drugs, David and his friendship? The ordinary activities in the school, getting up in the morning, the meals, going to the morning assembly? Classes – and his preoccupation with gazing at the female teacher? After school, the video group? His work, the encounter with the twins? Discovering them dying, the graphic effect? His reaction? His relationship with Amy, friendship, the sexual encounter, his consideration for her? The matter-of-fact attitude? Telling David? The difficulties in the school after the deaths? Amy and her going home? David giving her the lift? His remaining? His making the video? The discussions with his counsellor, the counsellor trying to draw out information from him? The rude remark about his mother and his retort from the pornographic video? His behaviour, tensions, with David, in the room? His continued work on the film, looking at the Internet? The girl fight and the way that it was filmed? His waiting in the corridor, the sudden attack on David? The video, the supervisor, his not being happy with it – it not having any music? The finished product, the screening? His presence? The discussions with the headmaster? His being asked to explain the deaths? His antagonism towards David? Working in the library, looking at the picture of the twins and remembering? His future?
6.David, roommate, attitude, sport? Friendship, confidant? The involvement in the death of the twins, Trevor and the drugs? Trevor and his being on the list of those expelled? The antagonism towards David, David’s own reaction in the night and shaking the bunk? The fight in the corridor?
7.Amy, at school, friendship with Robert, the sexual encounter, her reaction? Going home for the weekend? Her family?
8.The staff: the teacher, the headmaster and his morning assemblies, the notices, the hail fellow well met, getting the other teachers to speak? The after-school projects? The counsellor and his work with Robert, inviting him to come at any time? The video teacher, dissatisfaction with the project? Other members of the staff? The screening of the video for the whole school?
9.Other students, Trevor and the drugs, the twins, their place in the school, people liking them, the drugs, the pathos of their death?
10.A portrait of American education? More exclusive education? Rules and regulations of such an institution? The contemporary students, their issues?
11.The Internet, the images, surveillance? YouTube? and everybody being able to put their clips on, everybody able to watch? The change in consciousness, image-consciousness?