Monday, November 19, 2012

The Rage of Puberty

The film Chronicle, by director Josh Trank and screenwriter Max Landis, is a high school supernatural thriller turning into tragedy. Underneath the spectacular surface, it's all about the torment and rage of male puberty.

If you haven't seen the film yet – watch out, because there are several blunt spoilers below.

Three high school boys mysteriously acquire what proves to be increasing superpowers. Raw power. They can move bigger and bigger things, they learn how to fly, and their powers keep on growing. So do the complications that follow.

Especially one of them, played with escalating intensity by Dane DeHaan, becomes unable to control the melting pot in which he falls, deeper and deeper. None can help or halt him, not even his equally equipped friends.

All the ingredients of puberty are there. The unhealed wounds of bullying, the sexual urge and disgracing failure, the revolt against a tyrannic father. So, his growing powers are doomed to run amok and lead to his own thunderous doom.

It's an allegory with a bite. The telekinesis and flying among the clouds actually increase the emotional turmoil that is the essence of the story. That's an odd aspect of storytelling – the more extreme the story, the more it seems to relate universally. It's because withing ourselves, we live magnificent lives. The grand scale is what we regard as the most appropriate.

That's never more true than in puberty. And all through the history of human culture there have been a lot of sparkling allegories about puberty, like Gilgamesh, Icarus, Hamlet, Spiderman, just to mention a few. They will keep on coming. Puberty will never be easy.

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