By Dirk Sonniksen | March 27, 2014
Director: Matt Wolf
Writer(s): Jon Savage, Matt Wolf
You are born. You frolic a bit as a child and then you are thrust into the world of the adult. You are put to work and given a moral code upon which your existence rests. There is no deviation from this societal code and should one step beyond the boundary provided, you are branded by your freakish conduct and cast out. Woe to thee who is cast out.
And so it continued from the beginning of human existence and well into the industrial revolution. The age of mechanization brought about child slavery where children as young as seven were given 70 hour work weeks in the factories, earning a pittance and laying the foundation for a life of toil that would likely end prematurely. But then something changed. A generation of youth began to question their place in the world, planting the seed that would allow the youth culture to blossom.
Matt Wolf’s Teenage follows the rise of youth culture, an early 20th century movement that empowered a younger generation who would become known as teenagers. Wolf utilizes archival footage as well as dramatizations to tell the tale of those both in the states and abroad who became disillusioned with the status quo and a world war that “gutted a generation.” Out of the ashes rose a population of youth distrustful of their elders, a group eager to make their own unique mark on society.
Teenage is a documentary that is essential for audiences studying up on early 20th century history. There is a thread here that is not often explored and history buffs and documentary gurus will no doubt sop up the tales of success, failure, and debauchery that emerged from the era. The use of dramatization for history documentaries is typically a bad thing, but Wolf manages to pull it off with shots that are designed and lined up nicely with historical footage. Wolf’s finished product turns out to be an important historical film, a nod to a past generation, and a mindful tale for those just getting their feet wet in the game of life.