Teenage DVD Review

What’s It About? At the turn of the 20th Century, as child labour was ending, the “adolescence” teenager was emerging, causing a social struggle between adults and youths. Teenage documents the proceedings of the newly formed emergence of young adults from all different countries and walks of life through the first half of the 20th century.

Teenage still-full21Verdict: Inspired by Jon Savage’s book of the same name, and brought to the screen by documentary filmmaker Matt Wolf and producer Jason Schwartzman, this intriguing documentary focuses on the years when teenagers were becoming their own entity. The first quarter of the film looks at why child labour laws had to be passed and the shock to the system when kids discovered that work from an early age wasn’t a necessity. Whilst intriguing, the film actually skips through the emergence of the modern teenager far too quickly to grasp how it all began. Instead it speeds through World War I and the couple of decades afterwards, finally stopping for a large portion of the documentary on the teenagers affected by World War II. Here the film splits its time between German, English and American teens showing archival footage overlaid with youngsters thoughts and diary entries all narrated by modern-day actors. The scenes from Germany particularly domainate with wet-behind-the-ears kids at first enjoying the fruits of the Hitler youth movement before realising that war is upon them.

The documentary spends the last 20  minutes looking at the rise of pop music during the teenage years after the war. This is one of the more intriguing parts as it shows how powerful music can be in an adolescence life. The footage of youngsters pounding the dance floor to a different beat than their parents are used to is great fun to watch.

Whilst the documentary does a good job of looking at the lives of the young, the main issue is that it doesn’t spend long enough looking at each new decade of teenager. It’s far too insubstantial, and short, as a documentary to really give good credence to an entire new social class.

Extras: Dreaming Documentary: Making Teenage – shows what it took to get the project off the ground and includes contributions from Matt Wolf, Jon Savage and Jason Schwartzman. Extended archival footage as well.

Final Words: Teenagers causing outrage among older generations will continue to happen, but this documentary examines how it all started, involving some great archival footage and fun narrated diary entries. However it’s too lightweight to truly get underneath the skin of 50 years of the teenager. This type of factual program would have worked better as a 5-part TV series, giving each decade time to tell its youth story.

Rating: 3 / 5      

Teenage is available on DVD from 31 March 2014.