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Monday, June 10, 2013

Atomic Age DVD Review

Atomic Age is an unusual and engaging film about two friends who go into the city for what they think will be a normal night of dancing at a club, and end up discovering something about themselves.

The opening shots are from a train, dominated by gorgeous blues in the sky, which then yield to harsher reds as the two young men get closer to their destination. And suddenly – in reaction to the changing scenery – Victor begins to sing “In The Ghetto,” causing his companion, Rainer, to laugh. It’s a warm moment between them, and interestingly the scene is done mainly in singles, so that the two are not in frame together for most of it (until Rainer gives Victor his scarf). The result is that we are looking at them the way they are looking at each other, almost like studying them. It’s an interesting way to introduce the characters. (By the way, in this scene a subtitle flashes on the screen so quickly that I had to pause the DVD to read it: “What do you listen to these days?” The actual line, however, isn’t spoken for several more moments, a weird mistake with the DVD.)

Victor and Rainer soon arrive at a club, the lights of which are blues and reds, matching those colors from the train. Rainer tells Victor he can’t sleep and he’s started reading poetry again (“It’s my own way of dreaming”). But Victor’s focus is more on a girl. He points her out to Rainer, tells him he’s going to spend the night with her. When he talks to her, the sounds of the club disappear so we can actually hear the dialogue. This also adds to the strange vibe of the film.

Like the scene on the train, we see Victor and Cecilia in singles, in close-ups, and here it has the feeling of being two separate worlds. That is, until he touches her, touches her hair – that’s in a two-shot. But she slaps him and walks away. It’s interesting that when he tries to connect it goes wrong, that when he reaches into her frame, her world, whatever it is they have is over. For me, it’s one of the film’s most interesting sequences, as it starts off as a sort of imitation of the train scene, but ends exactly the opposite way. In the earlier scene, Rainer reached into Victor’s frame to give him the scarf, and the connection was made stronger rather than destroyed. Also interesting is that the scene starts in blues, but very quickly changes to reds. Victor goes back to Rainer and says girls are harsh.

Victor and Rainer both kind of wallow in their misery. However, at first there is a distance between these characters and the audience, because we don’t know much about them, what’s causing their misery, what they really want. So their complaining can be a bit off-putting, like when Rainer expresses his fear of not ever having anyone and being forgotten. It feels a bit juvenile, but then again the characters are young, so it sort of works. Everything is heightened when you’re that age.

This film has kind of an hypnotic feel, going more for a mood than a strong narrative. After they leave the club, a lot of the scenes use darkness to focus our attention on the two men’s faces.  We can’t see much of their surroundings, so are forced to focus on these two young men.

This film is short. The case says it’s 70 minutes, but according to my DVD player, it’s 64 minutes, and that includes a five-minute closing credit sequence.

Atomic Age was directed by Helena Klotz, and stars Dominik Wojcik, Eliott Paquet, Mathilde Bisson and Niels Schneider. It is in French, with English subtitles. The DVD’s only special feature is the film’s trailer.

Atomic Age was released on May 21, 2013 through TLA Releasing.

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