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Time Out says
Tue Aug 18 2009Flaunting a sense of misanthropy that makes Michael Haneke look like Tex Avery, Antonio Campos’s chilling second feature (his follow-up to 2005’s girl-sells-virginity-on-eBay diversion, ‘Buy It Now’) is both admirably ambitious and repellent. It concerns YouTube-fixated prep school outcast Rob (newcomer Ezra Miller), who skulks between classes, assemblies, the lunchroom and his dorm, continually bullied by his peers.
While casually filming exposition shots for an AV club project, he accidentally captures the death of two well-liked twin girls as they overdose on tainted cocaine. He walks over and cradles one of them in his arms. You wonder, is he consoling her or choking her? Campos then contrasts Rob’s eerily nonchalant reaction to the tragedy with the hysterical mourning and after-the-fact anti-drugs campaigning around him.
Adopting the detached aesthetic of a homemade online video – right down to the needlessly elongated takes, muffled soundtrack, flickering autofocus and awkward angles (either very low or very high) – Campos cleverly shapes the action to mimic the stock characteristics of those kinds of clips. There are numerous lengthy scenes of kids socialising or filing down corridors that abruptly break out into violence, all of which looks as if they were filmed by a surveillance camera.
The film has a lot to say about the effect of technology on teenage interaction, how schools repress individuality and how sexual awakening causes, rather than relieves, teenage angst. It comes unstuck when, like Haneke’s ‘Benny’s Video’, it demands that we naively accept that video imagery can provoke copycat antisocial behaviour from the viewer. The remainder of the film is brave, intelligent and disconcerting, but this doesn’t wash.
Author: David Jenkins