Switzerland, 2015, 92 minutes, Colour.
Directed by Nicklaus Hilber.
Amateur Teens has reminded audiences of Larry Clarke’s Kids, filmed in New York 20 years earlier. Both are slices of contemporary life, a focus on adolescent children, their behaviour, their attitudes, especially towards one another, relationships, and sexuality.
The difference is the changes in the 20 years from the 1990s and the availability of social media, instant communication, instant humiliation of others, and the availability of pornography. There is still the problems of parents, their knowledge of their children’s behaviour, discipline and control.
The teenagers in this film are all 14. They are seen at school, some succeeding at their subjects, others failing in exams, the exasperation of the teacher, as well as a student behind in his work getting some coaching from a fellow student. Another student follows boxing and is encouraged by his father even when the boxing coach has told the boy that he is too aggressive instead of skilful.
With the girls, there is a new girl who is introduced to the class, who is looked down on by the rest of the girls and considered cold and frigid, who is humiliated. There is another girl who is close to her mother and trying to do the right thing in life. Another girlfriend is looking after children, a kind of internship to help decide what she wants to do with her life, confiding that she always wanted to be a vet. And there are other girls, hangers on who exercise the peer pressure, the humiliations – and, when the new girl has been involved in provocative sexual behaviour, they decide to support her.
Parents did not appear in Larry Clarke’s film, the focus was on the kids themselves and the characters, their interactions, sexual curiosity. While parents do appear here as well as a teacher, they do have some influence but the narrative shows that the important influences in life are the peers.
Selim lives with his younger brother, migrants to Switzerland. He seems to be conscientious, is attracted to one of the girls but is very shy. A situation arises where he gets to know her, and they have some time together. But, the pressure is for immediate sexual involvement and, during a visit, Selim goes to the girls room but has a premature ejaculation and is embarrassed and leaves. The girl herself does not quite know whether she has had intercourse on not a tells her girlfriends about the incident and the news goes round the school.
The girl with the internship is friendly with a boy and spends time at his house, a friend coming in, some sexual shenanigans which she broadcasts as having a threesome, to the awe of her entourage.
One girl does try to be friendly towards the newcomer who has a chance encounter was one of the boys and they hit it off together, she urging him to stand on the roof ledge of a high building with his eyes shut, able to be with each other and talk.
However, there is a crisis when the boys all decide to watch a television match and invite the newcomer. They drink a lot, try some drugs, Selim included.
In the aftermath, there is talk that the girl was raped by the five boys, Selim as well.
Throughout the film there has been a school counsellor who has listened to the young people, especially Selim wondering what to do about his friendship with the girl. The counsellor then intervenes, Selim ashamed and upset, but the girl saying that the sexual activity was not rape but that she consented. And it is when this gets around, she is accepted by the school group of girls.
For an older audience, this group of youngsters may seem very precocious, much more aware (though often in fact very ignorant) about sexual behaviour, looking at Internet pornography, sexually promiscuous, at least in intention.
This is the kind of film that my alarm some parents and teachers – but, could be the occasion for dialogue about contemporary loss of values, the need for values – and the consequences of imprudent, ignorant, selfish behaviour.