21 November 2010

Afterschool

'He's a peeping Tom!'
Antonio Campos (2008)

This was sent to me by LoveFilm, but I have little to no idea how it got on my list. I don't recall anybody recommending it to me, and it can't have been added to my list following a director/actor trawl (they're all largely unknown). The only thing I can think of was that I added it after the recent Sight and Sound 'Latin American Cinema' thing. I dunno. However it got on my list, I wish it hadn't have. It's not that Afterschool is terrible. It's just mediocre and boring. But read on, nevertheless, dear reader!

Really, it's just a school-set Todd Solondz film. Like Storytelling, then, but without The Todd's ability to utterly repulse his viewer. Campos tries, though. The film concerns a kid in a boarding school who's, like, rilly weird or something? He doesn't play sport, and looks at rude things (with a violent theme) on the internet. He's a member of the audiovisual club and is really shy. Anyway, he's friends with a girl, and they fool around, and he tries the slightly violent thing he saw to make the fooling around a bit more kinky, and she doesn't like it. How dare she not want to be strangled. He also gets slightly bullied, but not in a major, this-is-a-film, kind of way.

It's all a bit low key. The pivotal plot moment comes when two pretty twins, the girls who rule the school, stagger into a corridor, and fall over. There's blood and screaming, and laboured breathing. Our weirdo protagonist just happens to be there. We only see the action from a CCTV camera, so don't know what exactly is happening. It's so mysterious! As he discovered the girls just before their untimely demises, Weirdo is counselled. But then everyone is. A detective asks him questions, but nothing develops there. Our boy gets asked, as a member of the AV club, to put together a tribute video to them.

Only it turns out to suck! Man, what with that, the light and occasional bullying, and his not-girlfriend not liking strangulation, he seems to be a powder keg, just waiting to combust! Think about it. He keeps himself to himself! He has impure thoughts! And he's in a boarding school! It's got Posh Boy Columbine written all over it. Only there's no KMFDM on the soundtrack. But hey, there's no anything on the soundtrack. He gets into a fight with his room-mate, and gets suspended for a bit. When he comes back, he's still really quiet! And it turns out he actually hastened the death of one of the girls: instead of running for help, he put his hand over her breathing bits! The monster. And it turns out someone is filming him. And it finishes.

Did I miss something, or was that just a completely underwhelming film? Maybe Campos decided a swathe of murderlisation would have been cliche, and he's too cool and arthouse for that. He's low-key, and would rather very little happens. Smaller episodes can mean more, of course, but only if you create a strong relationship between protagonist and audience. Campos doesn't. His protagonist is just a little shit who we see jerk off and punch himself in the face (not at the same time; that would have been more interesting). We don't care. We're not given any reason to. Apparently being a slightly put-upon, spoiled kid in an indie film is enough to make us care. Sadly not. The film's hour and 42 minutes feel like a little eternity, and nothing is gained from surviving its duration. Catharsis in the form of homicide or suicide would have been something. Or just a cool little idea. His turning around to find a camera on him is just pitiful. Wow, the fourth wall just, like, totally collapsed or something.

Whatever.

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