Directed By Lukas Moodysson
Written by Lukas Moodysson, Coco Moodysson (comic)
Australia is certainly not the place for impatient cinephiles. Released around the rest of the world months ago, this fun romp of a film has just finished screening in the one cinema in Adelaide that was hosting it, after a mere four weeks. Luckily, I was able to catch this before it disappeared, and while I probably could have simply downloaded a copy for myself, the cinema is a special place; it will always transform any movie into an amazingly immersive experience. As a fan of true punk rock, and all music in general really, this movie spoke to me in many ways while remaining fun and light-hearted. The idea of using younger protagonists was a fantastic choice, as it shows not only the naivety of young people their age (about 13-15 it would seem) but more specifically, how they perceive culture at that age; in this instance, the culture that surrounded classic punk rock.
This film is based in Stockholm, Sweden, circa 1982. Is punk dead?
This is one of those films that will have you smiling for its entirety. The perception of punk by these adolescent girls is always funny, one commenting near the start of the film, “he isn’t punk, he listens to Joy Division!”, just one of countless quotes that will put a smile on your face. This attitude to music is prominent throughout the film, as these young girls want to prove that punk is not dead. They want to form a band. The problem is, they can’t play. But, in classic punk DIY tradition, that mere fact does not stop them from banging out tunes about how they hate sport, a lot. They don’t seem to be fans of Ronald Reagan either. Their naivety is fodder for many laughs, but in contrast to this, they show maturity beyond their age in other ways. They have no fear. They have no problem mouthing off at whoever they please, whether it is at entire crowds, or adults, who look appropriately shocked that a person so young could show such disrespect.
Despite the original duo’s strictly punk attitude, when they witness a girl who also displays no fear, playing her music through booing and jeering, on an acoustic guitar no less, she garners their interest. The two argue that she is ‘too Christian’ to be punk, but they agree they can sway her into their private world. They know she is a ‘loner’ who always sits alone while eating lunch; but these two don’t care. Their passion is music, and while most youngsters would ignore such a person for fear of being bullied, these two don’t hesitate to tell her how great she was great on stage, complimenting her ability to ignore the crowd. After a prompt ‘punk’ haircut, she becomes the third member, one who can actually play an instrument. And so they begin, fearless in their goal to prove that punk is not dead, no matter who their opposition may be.
This flick captures the culture of old-school punk perfectly; though it transcends that and shows how different genres of music have their own, unique cultures within them, and sometimes counter-cultures trying to bury them, insisting that a particular of music is irrelevant, dead. Despite the films many serious undertones on music and the cutures it can spark, I was constantly laughing at how the original duo talked and acted; from being disgusted at any song that isn’t punk when they hear it, to debating what they could write a song about; their honest, naive thoughts on what could make a ‘political’ punk song is particularly amusing. Throughout the film similar themes and quotes are endless, and I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face, and laughed out loud many times at their youthful comments. Funnier still was the songs they wrote and played, in total ignorance of their lack of talent; again, true to the DIY punk ethos. There are some great side characters too, whose harmless ignorance of the punk culture frustrates the girls to no end; at one point, a family friend or uncle tries to join in… With a clarinet, of all instruments! The kids’ reactions are priceless, as well as ringing true.
While this film does accurately portray the way anyone, particularly young people, can become obsessed and irrational due to their taste in music, it is all displayed in hilarious fashion. Their suggestions, their ideas for haircuts, the songs they write, the opinions they have of everything from what is punk to what constitutes a good song, and most prominently their reactions to anyone they consider out of the loop is consistently amusing for almost the entire length of the movie. This movie doesn’t particularly have a plot, nor does it need one, as it is constantly funny and it shows just how dedicated people can be to their music, whether it is punk or otherwise, no matter how young or how old. The final scene is perhaps the funniest of them all, and will have you throwing your fist in the air… As their enthusiasm and fearlessness is infectious. “WE ARE THE BEST!!”
This year has been fantastic for unconventional movies involving music, and I for one couldn’t be happier! So far we have had Get On Up, an incredibly moving film that reincarnated James Brown for 120 minutes, 20,000 Days on Earth, this punk rocker, and finally the upcoming Whiplash, which I am tearing my hair our in anticipation for. Importantly, all these movies avoid being typical biopics, or simple follow-a-band-around documentaries. Each one of these films are different, yet each has its own, unique message about music and what it can mean to us. Bring on Whiplash!!
3.5/5 – A consistently fun movie with a lot to say, in its own, unique way. This isn’t just for fans of punk music, it easily goes beyond such pigeon-holing and is for anyone who wants to smile.
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