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They Call Us Misfits
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by Dr Nick

"An extremely intimate account of teenage alienation"
5 stars

Stefan Jarl's debut feature is a remarkable documentary. Closely following a group of Swedish inner-city youths in the late 1960's, it's an often brutally honest account of growing up. With tales of domestic abuse and clashes with social services, skillfully mixed with sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll it's a film that has lost none of its power and remains as relevent as ever. Essential viewing.

The film starts with a young man, Tompa, talking about his life. Abandoned by parents and let down by the social services he’s spent most of his life in orphanages or doing time for petty crimes. His story gets increasingly depressing and hopeless until he mentions the summer that changed his life, the day he started hanging out with the mods, the “misfits” of the title. This scene is immediately followed by a very energetic scene, a long dolly shot following Kenta and Stoffe, the film’s main characters, as they run through the streets of Stockholm amidst cars and terrified pedestrians. The rest of the film follows this structure; intimate interviews with tales of hopelessness and abuse, followed by highly energetic scenes of partying and having fun. Kenta and Stoffe are two 17-year old boys and the film follows them over the course of a year at the end of the 1960’s. Having dropped out of school and subsequently been thrown out of their parents’ homes they spend their days getting drunk and stoned, looking for girls and making fun of the “ordinary” people, the “citizens”. In these kids eyes this is the worst possible outcome in life and becoming a dull, regular capitalist has to be avoided at all costs.

The most depressing thing about the film is that these kids are well aware of where they are heading, but have no desire to even attempt avoiding an early death. During an interview with 17-year old Jojje, director Jarl asks if he’s not afraid to die young, to which he replies “no, I’m not, cause I expect to and I’ve accepted that” and laughs as he continues that him, Kenta and Stoffe will always be friends until they die….aged forty.

Director Jarl is allowed amazing access to these kids lives and establishes relationships with them where they feel comfortable to share not only their most intimate thoughts, but also moments including arguments and having sex. Being teenage boys, much of their lives revolve around getting laid and even if neither of them care much about their health or future, they do care about their physical appearance. Their rather well-groomed image and extremely high confidence means that girls overlook their obnoxious behaviour and neither Kenta nor Stoffe has any problems finding girls. "We don't care if the girls are disgusted by us. It still seems to work", one of them says as they joke around about how many children they must have fathered across the city.

The scenes of Kenta and Stoffe together are in stark contrast to the ones where they are being interviewed individually or are alone with girls. Together they are loud, obnoxious and proud of it. Alone or with girls they are down-to-earth and even quite sensitive. Stoffe's chamge in personality is most extreme and as he falls in love with a girl, Kenta becomes less and less important to him and they slowly grow apart.

More often than not the blame for their situation is pointed at the parents. They have both had extremely turbulent upbringings and any desire either of them had to study or to be something knocked out of them at an early age, often literally. Stoffe even recalls feeling quite relieved and going to school as normal on the morning his father died. Kenta's father is also long gone, but his eyes light up with pride when he tells the story of the day finally stood up to his stepfather and punched him back.

Unfortunately, the subtitles leave a lot to be desired and don't really do the film justice. Teenagers talk a lot and drunk and/or high teenagers talk even more, meaning that much essential dialogue is left out and the film really suffers from this. However, it is still an extremely powerful film and it stands as an important social document of a Sweden not many people knew existed.

An amazing documentary about the rollercoaster of emotions that is teenage life, made even worse by abusive parents and a government that has given up on its country's less well-off children.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=13807&reviewer=345
originally posted: 01/16/06 18:15:26
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