The Young and the Old

in 5th International Film Festival Bratislava

by Ronald Bergan

In Jean-Luc Godard’s Eloge de l’Amour, there is a comment that the old and the young have identities in films but, what the director calls ‘adults’, presumably those in between, have no specific one. The young are young and the old are old with all the cliches that cling to that concept. The young are usually fun-loving, go to discos, have sexual problems and usually react against their parents or their parent’s generation. They often are closer to their grandparent’s generation. The old are rather lovable eccentric caricatures, who are seen, mainly through the eyes of the young, as comically doing things that only the young are supposed to do. At the Bratislava Festival, which caters mainly to a young crowd, there were a number of films that conformed to type.

The Norwegian film Buddy, directed by the 36-year-old Morten Tyldum, was told in the fashion of today, the use of a video camera as both part of the style and the plot. It could have been called sex, lies and videotape if that title hadn’t been used a long time ago. It tries to convince us that the young hero’s home video tapes of the antics of him and his flatmates are interesting enough to be broadcast on national television, thus making them stars. In fact, they just do the usual things that young people in films do. Finally, every conflict is resolved in the ‘feel good’ ending.

Girl, the Dutch film by Dorothee van den Bergh, concentrates on the problems that a sullen teenage girl has of relating to boys. Made in a dated realistic style, it pointlessly portrays all the humiliations she suffers. Of course, the disco is at the centre of her cultural life. Thirteen (USA), by Catherine Hardwicke, at least tried to go further than the troubles of a teenager by suggesting that she is victim of fashion and peer pressure that leads to drugs.

However, the sufferings of spoilt teenagers or 20 somethings in Norway, Holland and the USA are as nothing compared to the young Afghan girl in Osama who is forced to disguise herself as a boy to be able to work to help her family, something forbidden to females under the repressive Taliban regime. It is her wise, old grandmother who suggests this solution by telling a fable of gender change.

Far less unendurable are the hardships of the young boy in The Island (Italy), which won the FIPRESCI prize, working indefatigably as a fisherman, attending school and longing to be a sailor. Here is no false romanticism of adolescence. Here, too, is a grandmother whose relationship with her granddaughter is a close one, and the documentary tone of the film is slightly ruined by the ending when the granddughter, with the aid of an old man, decide to bulldoze the wall that separates the grandmother from her view of the sea.

The old woman in Angel On The Right (Tadzikistan) is a crafty character who pretends, Volpone-like, to be dying so that her wishes will be fulfilled. In Since Otar Left (France-Belgium), the old grandmother, again very close to her granddaughter, decides, on her own, to go to Paris from Georgia (ex-USSR), to visit her son. The title character, a retired miner,in Schultze Gets The Blues (Germany), directed by Michael Schorr, decides, completely uncharacteristically, to save his money to go to Louisiana to listen and play the blues (in fact one tune) on his accordian instead of the usual polka. Although Schultze is seen humorously, he is never patronised by the director. However, the fact that an elderly man should go on such an adventure is a joke in itself.

Unfortunately, there are very few films that go beyond the treatment of being young or being old as subjects in themselves, and deal with them as they do ‘adults’ in Godard’s term.