TTeen Spirit tells the story of Violet, a shy teenager who lives in a quiet European village. Struggling with her dismal environments and broken family life, the incredibly Violet dreams of pop stardom as a way to break free from her world. When auditions are held nearby for the Teen Spirit reality show, Violet finally believes she’s found her way out. With the help of her unlikely mentor Vlad, Violet auditions for the show but soon discovers that the competition will test her integrity, talent, and ambition.
The first directorial effort by Max Minghella, Teen Spiritis a beautiful film that speaks to our obsession with fame. Skillfully shot and directed, Minghella’s use of lighting and sound highlight the dichotomy of the world of fame and Violet’s everyday life. While at home, Violet’s world is exemplified through flat, bleached colours that point to the bland existence of life on the farm. However, as Violet is gradually drawn into the realm of fame, Minghella’s tone slowly transitions to a pulsating neon that bleeds off the screen. Lens flares. Pounding bass lines. This is the life that Violet has dreamed of and, with every flash, we experience its dazzling fury. Fanning, currently one of our finest young talents, plays Violet with a quiet innocence that suits her hometown upbringing. Despite her ambition, she has been untouched by the sort of visceral pride and selfishness that exemplifies the world of fame. While it could also be argued that Fanning underplays Violet at times, there is a purity to her character that remains endearing.
Most interesting about Violet, however, is the tension within her relationship to her home life. In conflict with her mom about her way of life, she sees the Teen Spirit opportunity as a way to become more. However, while singing is something she’s passionate about, it soon becomes clear that much of her desire to succeed stems from a desire to escape. Raised in poverty on a small-town farm, Violet views fame as the ‘way out’. However, as she builds a relationship of trust with her manager, failed opera singer Vlad (Zlatko Buric, who frequently steals scenes), Violet begins to struggle between the two worlds. For Violet, Vlad becomes a mentor, father-figure and even somewhat of a moral compass, challenging her along the way. (“You’ve only been here two days and look at what you’re becoming!” he warns.) Despite his own brokenness, Vlad’s care for Violet proves to offer a stability that she so desperately needs at such a turbulent, high-pressure time in her life. As a result, although she wants to break free, she also begins to recognize that home also has its value as well. Does fame require cutting ties with everything that came before? Or is there a way to honour the past while moving forward into the future?
At its heart, there is a sweetness to Teen Spirit, despite its emphasis on the glamour of pop culture stardom. The relationship between Violet and Vlad provides an anchor in the midst of the chaotic but enticing world of celebrity culture. As his first feature, Minghella creates a surprisingly intimate film which balances the bright chaos of fame with the personal nature of relationships.
Teen Spirittours in theatres beginning April 19th, 2019.