Movies To Die For: Teenage

When I first read up on the root of Matt Wolf’s new flick, “Teenage,” I wasn’t convinced. What do you mean “the development of the teenager?” Teenagers have always been around… An entire phase of life didn’t just come out of nowhere. But, once I started the film, (curled on the couch with a glass of vino) I was pleasantly surprised.

The movie ‘Teenage’ was originally inspired by punk author, Jon Savage, and his book Teenage,¬†which is filled with enthralling stores of teenage life never before heard and biographies of youth revolutionaries. However, these stories weren’t of the teen rebels we’ve all heard about like the hippies and the punks; rather, his stories were those of teenagers in the first half of the 20th century – Flappers, Victory Girls, and many more. The team behind ‘Teenage’ took these stories and combined them with old clips, pictures, home movies, and newly made clips inspired by the old ones that were destroyed, and turned them in to a new age style documentary. Being that much of this collage of imagery ¬†came from personal sources, it made the movie seem so real, as if you were living in the moments presented. In addition to that, Wolf kept the movie lively and interesting by including a “punk approach” – not only in how the clips were cut and arranged but also by making the film come from a first hand perspective. You’re watching this and you’re thinking, “Man, I am a part of this teenage rebellion going on! This is badass!” and really, you’re sitting there curled up to your iPhone eating Double Stuffed Oreos or whatever. These stories in the film are undoubtedly from the past (thank god the Hitler Youth is dead), but all of them can be related to and applied to the present and future. The movie unveils our underlying sense of security we may have with the promised age of adolescence, but at any moment it can be taken away. Our teenage years are not something worth taking for granted, that’s for sure. I believe Wolf wanted to not only share the stories of past teen revolutionaries but wanted to inspire the youth of today with a social message that they should keep the fight going because youth won’t always be guaranteed.
Youth is freedom.

Wolf has created a super cool, History Channel-esque film, but without all the things we hate about documentaries and war flicks. Mostly black and white film, the movie introduces us to the understanding that in the 40’s there were no teenagers. You were either a child or an adult. No in between. Society realized that a gap was being created, and they jumped at the opportunity to fill the void. A cross between child and adult, teenagers were yo-yoed between not being old enough to work and go to war but not old enough to go completely without supervision. Insert: The teenager.

The development of this new phase in life came with questions like, “Who are we? What do we want? What do we stand for?” Questions we all ask ourselves. Wolf unlocks the androgynous flapper parties of the 20’s and 30’s, American gangster fascinations, Hitler’s abuse of the German youth, and other scandalous moments in the shaping of teenagers. Although from different parts of the world and different points in time, the shaping of teenagers was, is, and will always center around a period of transformation and creation. From child to adult and all of the messy and liberating excitement in between, teenagers will forever push the limits of those before them. They will challenge belief and understanding in order to find out who they are on their own terms. They will experiment, destroy, and create themselves.

Wolf understands this. He gets it. And he’s created a stunning memorial to us all in “Teenage.”

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