Details: 122 mins, Greece,
Synopsis: Inspired by the tragic shooting of Alexandros Grigoropoulos, this film observes a day-in-the-life of a young skate-punk (Haris Markou) and policeman Vasilis (Ieronymos Kaletsanos). While the teenager's life is filled with the usual travails of youth, Vasilis is on the edge of a nervous breakdown with the pressures of work and home becoming way too much. What begins as a run-of-the-mill day for them both will conclude as anything but ordinary. Wasted Youth accurately taps into the current zeitgeist of angst-ridden, existentialist Greece.
Passive characters sink Greek social drama.
there’s not enough to make these lives much more interesting than a hill of beans
GREEK FILM FESTIVAL: Societies in crisis often see a renewed focus or energy in their filmmaking, either during the events themselves or in their aftermath. As we saw after the 1990’s Balkan conflicts and Argentina’s 1999-2001 economic collapse, hardship can give filmmakers a sense of focus and outrage, something important to communicate.
On the downside, this can also lead to worthy filmmaking – stories whose lack of
narrative interest are justified via a limp appeal to their naturalistic content, their assumed social importance.
Wasted Youth keys both directly and indirectly into Greece’s recent economic collapse, something you can probably guess from the none-too-subtle title. Filmed using handheld, it’s a documentary-style fiction examining the dissatisfied lives of two male individuals from different generations living in Athens.
The first is a tired, middle-aged guy called Vasilis (Ieronimos Kaletsanos), whom we eventually discover is a cop. The other is Harris (Harris Markou), a teenage skateboarder who’s been sleeping outside of the family home because he doesn’t get on with his father. (It may also be because of a sexual relationship with the wealthy female homeowner where he’s been staying – or so the film intimates while leaving the exact nature of the relationship ambiguous.)
For most of the film the audience is left wondering whether they’re sitting through two entirely unrelated stories, or a narrative of two parts that will at a certain point intersect. It turns out there is a connection between Vasilis and Harris, but not until the final scene do we get to find out, by which time this viewer had given up caring.
Argyris Papadimitropoulos and Jan Vogel share directing and writing duties but are more assured at the former than the latter. They find energetic ways to film these characters – striking compositions, brisk editing, assured camerawork – without ever finding the dramatic energy to counterbalance their passivity.
From the film’s very opening it’s clear Vasilis has trouble on his mind: after coming home exhausted from the night shift he can’t perform sexually with his wife. It takes a few scenes to discover he’s decided to give up on a scheme to open a pizza shop with a pal because the economy has taken a dive and fast food restaurants are closing all around. He looks so unhappy we suspect something else weighing down on him, and so it proves to be. In the final third we discover he’s a uniformed policeman, unhappy at being given three night shifts on the trot.
Similar things can be said about Harris. He has problems, but not exactly overwhelming ones. His mother is in hospital, but he doesn’t appear too bothered since he has to be badgered to visit her, and his girlfriend dumps him for trying to get inside her pants.
So that’s it, I found myself asking – these are their big problems? In real life, tiredness and dashed hopes are a big deal. Finding ways to amplify them so they take up the big screen is a challenge, though, and in the absence of humour or acute psychological observation, there’s not enough in Wasted Youth to make these lives much more interesting than a hill of beans.
Still, I’ll give the filmmakers this: they do get across the hot atmosphere of the Athens summer. The incessant traffic sounds and noise from the street create a vivid sense of that steamy time of year when, to quote the Lovin’ Spoonful song, “the back of my neck’s getting dirty and gritty.”
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