film note: Silent Youth

Silent Youth
Written and directed by Diemo Kemmesies
73 mins, Germany, 2012

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Two young men meet on a walkway above a Berlin train station and spend the next few days hanging out on the streets trying to figure out what the other one wants, if he wants anything or anyone at all. Director Diemo Kemmesies takes the postponement of same-sex male desire to an almost comic extreme, employing long takes, extended silences, conversations stripped of almost all suggestion or allusion and expressions lacking any affect other than expectant diffidence, until the need to see something, anything consummated becomes excruciating, or excruciatingly boring depending on how invested you are in the scenario.

Once the kissing starts, in a shared shower-scene, the attraction seems obvious — it is one of the most convincing make-out scenes, in close-up, I’ve witnessed in a while, and that’s by no means a given in movies with or about sex — but until that point, it could have gone either way, and I felt a real fear as I watched that it was going to go the other. That’s a rare effect. Things get a little weirder and more complicated as the more confident boy realizes his new fuck buddy is a lot more fucked-up than he realized, and probably a big liar.

This film has the ring of truth for me, perhaps because in my own youth that sense of confusion about and misapprehension of the other person’s desires was a more familiar scenario than falling into bed on first sight was, and it’s the latter, easier-to-show scenarios that get more screen time in gay cinema. For that alone, I think it’s more than worth a look. It might deserve an extra half-star after a second viewing.

Note: This is not a coming-out story, however, thank the gods, as the press blurb misleads. I think one of the boys has a ways to go yet.

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