Saturday, June 17, 3:45pm, Roxie Theatre: North American premiere
|Paula (foreground) & Lilli (left) in Siebzehn (Seventeen)|
Paula (Elisabeth Wabitsch, pictured) is 17 years old. Through the course of the film, we see Paula navigating the uncertain waters of high school: she is in love with Charlotte, but Charlotte has a boyfriend, Michael. Meanwhile, there’s Lilli, an assertive blonde who dares Paula to come for a French kiss, or perhaps more, but alternately mocks Paula. Add in a couple of boys vying for Paula’s attention, plus a male teacher who takes Paula on a road trip to Vienna for an academic contest, and you have most of the cast of characters for this drama.
Unfortunately, I found it nearly impossible to track who was which and who wanted whom and who was holding whom at arm’s length, and I never felt I was seeing the drama from the perspective of any of the characters. Rather, I was a fly on the wall, objectively watching unfold events I didn’t fully understand. I sometimes wax nostalgic about my teenage years, and especially about what it might’ve been like had I been able to be more open about which classmates caught my eye, but this film offers a powerful reminder of the angst, insecurity, and confusion of that age, and why I’m glad to be well past it. The camera work is beautiful, including lovely scenery of rural Austria, and the actors do a fine job of portraying this group of adolescents and their outward interactions, but I never felt drawn into the scene. Perhaps if you speak German, or if you keep a score card handy to track the real and imagined liaisons among the characters, you might get more from the film, but the best I can give it is a lukewarm “recommended.”