Identities 2017: Siebzehn (Seventeen)

Austria 2017
Written by Monja Art
Directed by Monja Art
Watched on 13.06.2017

Too bad. While it took me a while to really get into the movie (for example, the acting of the supporting cast was a little amateurish; I adjusted quickly to that, though), it grew on me quickly, and got more and more captivating by the minute – only to culminate in one of the most bafflingly off-key endings that I’ve seen all year, thus completely dropping the ball at the finish line.

What “Siebzehn” did remarkably well is on the one hand making an accurate portrait of the current youth culture in Austria (at least, as far as I can tell), but on the other hand also stay quite universal. Thus, even “older” people like myself should be able to identify with the characters and/or certain situations, experiences, feelings, and so on. (For example, apart from a certain drastic action I couldn’t identify with, I was shocked how much of myself – especially my teenage-self – I saw in that one shy, slumsy nerd). What’s also a plus is that gay or bisexual relationships, for this group of teenager, are no big deal, and just as normal as heterosexual relationships – just as it should be (even though having a gay couple in it wouldn’t have hurt, since there’s still more stigma on gay than lesbian relationships). Apart from Wanda, which I hate with the fiery passion of a thousand suns, the soundtrack was really cool too. It also was shot really well. It’s biggest strengths, however, are its lead character, Paula, and her longing for a classmate. It’s been a really long time since I’ve been invested that much in a (cinematic) love story.

_____________________________ HERE BE SPOILERS _____________________________

Which, ultimately, brings us to the movies biggest fault, at least in my book. Because for a very long time, “Siebzehn” feels just as much like a romantic comedy as a coming-of-age-flick. Which is why the ending baffled me completely: Instead of giving us a clear happy end, “Siebzehn” ends on a rather sour – or, at best, very open – note. And for me, that ending just didn’t fit the rest of the movie, which – apart from a couple of dramatic scenes – was mostly funny, entertaining and uplifting. Also, with all those “almost”-scenes between them, I felt cheated not getting the big happy end that I was rooting for all the time. It doesn’t help that queer films are full of unhappy endings anyway, and I’m slowly getting sick of it, but the main problem here (since I loved a similar bitter ending in “Lovesong”) is not the overabundance of tragic endings in queer movies, but that in this very specific case, it just didn’t fit the tone of the movie at all, thus leaving an extremely sour taste in my mouth. As it is, it’s still far from a bad movie, but with a different (happier) ending, it would have been spectacular, and one of the best Austrian films of recent years. Which brings me back to my initial statement: Too bad.


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