Amateur Teens, realities suspended between the virtual world and real life
by Muriel Del Don
- Swiss director Niklaus Hilber’s film, which had its world premiere at the Zurich Film Festival, is an unsettling journey into the minds of ordinary teenagers
Niklaus Hilber presented his debut feature film, Amateur Teens [+see also:
film profile], in the competitive ‘Focus Switzerland, Germany, Austria’ section of this year’s Zurich Film Festival. The young director, originally from Fribourg, who studied at the prestigious Tish School in New York, portrays the lives of a group of teenagers who seem normal, but whose behaviour slowly but surely becomes more unsettling, corrupt and depraved. His camera doesn’t recoil from the perversion of a juvenile world dominated by social networks and ‘bargain price’ pornography, but tackles it head on with fascinating violence.
Salim falls in love with Sabrina through her Facebook profile photos. Her best friend Milena snubs her peers, preferring to (recklessly) venture into ambiguous relationships with men she meets online. Lara, the newbie, falls victim to bullying, and her desire to fit in with the group leads her down a slippery and treacherous slope. Niklaus Hilber’s film is about ordinary teenagers in search of recognition and glory within the ‘pack’. Behind their assertive, sexually liberated and incredibly cool virtual personas are insecure and confused 14-year-olds.
Amateur Teens is a film in which the tension is palpable and omnipresent despite the apparent serenity of a world in which wealth seems to shield you from danger. This feeling of danger, of irrational distress weaves its way into every shot, like a frenemy that hints at without ever explicitly indicating where the ‘evil’ is lurks. Violence is never shown directly but is implied, leaving the difficult task of picturing it up to the viewer. Niklaus Hilber shows us the monstrosity behind what looks like middle-class normality, the tragic flip side of the coin. The teenagers in Amateur Teens are extremely confused: by the adults who often fail to pick up on their cries for help, by the social networks that put pressure on them to be increasingly perfect, and by unlimited access, thanks to the Internet, to superficial pornography in which sex is nothing but a mechanical and repetitive routine. This paralysing confusion distorts their vision of adult life, making them believe that they know everything when they actually know nothing. The generations before them had to make do with what they had whilst these kids can rather dangerously have everything and straight away. Their sexual education moves from Youporn, without any kind of mediation, to a kind of distorted and decaying preparatory school that relentlessly confuses love and gymnastic sexuality. This new generation is hyper-sexualised due to its fixed and perverse relationship with the pornography freely available on the Internet..
Amateur Teens depicts the dangers of this apparent freedom, which gradually becomes a prison. The frenzied quest for often extreme experiences and social recognition at all costs is transformed through Niklaus Hilber’s lens into a tragedy in which the boundary between victim and oppressor, guilty and innocent, is tragically permeable. The film, which is divided into chapters, highlights the tragic nature of the story by creating tension that compels us to ask ourselves: what will happen next? How far will they go?
Amateur Teens was produced by A Film Company and is distributed by Look Now!.
(Translated from Italian)