Also known as: Born Digital (Germany)
Release Date: September 30th, 2015 (Switzerland)
Directed by: Niklaus Hilber
Written by: Niklaus Hilber, Patrick Tönz
Music by: Diego Baldenweg, Lionel Vincent Baldenweg
Cast: Fabrizio Borsani, Nicolas Heini, Zoë Pastelle Holthuizen, Beat Marti, Annina Walt, Chiara Carla Bär, Luna Wedler, Jérôme Humm, Benjamin Dangel
A Film Company, Leaves & Leaches Pictures, Synergetic Distribution, 92 Minutes
Amateur Teens was a pleasant surprise. I went into it knowing nothing about it and I didn’t check out a trailer first. I am glad that I didn’t, as going into a film blindly is really hard to do these days and I don’t think that it would have played out as effectively, had I known where this was going.
The unfortunate reality of film reviews, is that they are spoilers by nature, even if they claim they are “spoiler free”. The truth is, it is impossible to talk about a film without giving away something. I could state that this was a really good and worthwhile experience and leave it at that. If you want to go into this blindly, I’d stop reading now. Although, I will attempt to discuss the film without giving away too much.
The movie takes place in Zurich, Switzerland with a cast of teens that look and feel like real teenagers. This isn’t an overly done up Hollywood attempt at a dark teen drama. It isn’t full of actors who would look more at home hamming it up on the CW. The kids in this movie are real kids. Out of all the dark teen “coming of age” dramas that I have seen, Amateur Teens feels the most authentic. And man, can these kids act.
We follow a group of teens, all roughly 14 years-old, as they traverse through a young inexperienced life with the influences of peer pressure, social media and a digital age where everything revolves around sex and fame.
As the film progresses, we see a world where these teens play everything up for appearances. Their true feelings are rarely expressed among each other and when they are, they come with dire consequences. We come to discover the horror of our modern reality, as who these kids are, is who most people are since the advent of social media. Life is about creating and then living up to the ideal persona you’ve created on your Facebook profile. Never can you shows cracks, or weakness, or any sort of authenticity.
Mix that in with the complete inexperience these kids have regarding adult situations and you have a pretty twisted world. Now add in the fact that sex is just a button click away, throw in young male hormones, teenage impatience and the negative stigma that comes with the word “virgin” and you have the makings of a tragedy to be.
Amateur Teens has some really dark and unsettling moments but nothing so far outside of the box that it hasn’t been seen before. The real shocker, however, is that these kids are significantly younger than the teens in most dark teen dramas. What we have is middle school-aged kids, sort of left unrestrained by their parents, as they are raised and molded by all the influences I discussed above.
Having already been a middle school-aged kid several years ago, all of these influences (except social media) carried a lot of weight and with it, extreme peer pressure. The fact that this film deals with kids so young is brave. But it is also authentic. I’d have to say that this is the most accurate portrayal of early teen life that I have ever seen on film.
And despite all of its darkness, this film has great lighthearted moments and it also gives you hope for these kids, as they grow up in life and gain the experience that they lack. Being young is a mixed bag of new experiences and the awful realization that dire consequences exist for certain actions.
Amateur Teens does a fantastic job of showcasing the modern teenage reality. It also shows that life really isn’t all that different for kids wherever they’re from. As an adult, it was a reminder of all the things I hated about teen life and makes me happy that I am a fairly well-adjusted grown-up.