Teenage is a retrospective study of that in-between stage in life we most readily associate with pimples, tantrums, selfies and who in class has the latest iPad. But as it rightly proves, things weren’t always that way. Set out in a collage of rare archival stills, clips, filmed portraits and voice-over narrated excerpts from 20th century diaries, Teenage brings to life a rare glimpse into the hopes, fears and frustrations of four emblematic teenagers, who along with the young adults of their generation helped shape teenage life as we know it today.
From the decline of child slave labour at the turn of the 20th century and the regimentation of adolescent males during the First and Second World Wars, to records, swing and Coca-Cola, Teenage presents a clear narrative in the rise of the adolescent – the formation of a new stage in life that resulted in Eliot E. Cohen’s “A Teenage Bill of Rights” and the evolution of youth culture to what it has become.
The absence of a typical academic narrator contrasts with the more traditional historical documentary style, instead allowing the audience to hear the voices of those who lived and breathed the era. Could this quasi-documented non-fiction technique pave the way for aspiring new documentary film makers?
Though the film covers considerable stretches of American, British and Nazi German histories across near five decades, it may have benefited from the inclusion of further perspectives – for example that of German Jewish teens. Yet Matt Wolf’s mesmerising “living collage” technique presents the audience with an innovative and personal account of a history that is somewhat forgotten in society’s retelling of the Industrial Revolution, World Wars and rise of consumerism.
Teenage is released in cinemas nationwide on 24th January 2014.