RAW YOUTH

— by Jeff Schultz
For naturalism and unforced energy, kids and animals aren’t the only onscreen old reliables; teenagers also deliver. If you’ve seen Frederick Wiseman’s early stunner HIGH SCHOOL (or the 1994 sequel) or a lesser-known documentary from 1971 called SATURDAY MORNING, you know how camera-ready is the seething power of puberty. RAW YOUTH is the Norwegian version. Since it was produced by Lars von Trier, many of the “Dogme 95” rules — hand-held camera only, no artificial lighting or camera filters, etc. — apply. The result is joyous. A group of “fifth form”, 15-year-old high schoolers are shown in the weeks leading up to final exams. They act out, they exult, they fight, they bond, they grapple with the bewilderment of growing up under the patient supervision of almost preternaturally patient teachers. Even when demonstrating less than generous character, these kids are enormously likable; you root for them. And even though it was released in 2004 (I’m not sure why it was screened at this year’s Tromso festival), it deals frankly with an issue — immigration — that has only intensified in Norway and the rest of the West. At a seminar the day before I saw this, film critic David Thomson mentioned that at a dinner during his stay here, he asked Norwegians at the table what were the serious problems facing their country. The only one they could readily identify was immigration. (It’s a pretty happy, pretty rich place otherwise.) But even with the (mostly goodnatured) racial taunts that are tossed back and forth between the white and Pakistani and Turkish and African students, what I took away was the intense cameraderie, the sense of second “family” played out in class and out. I would love to know what happened to all of them. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s