My rating: 8
IMDB rating: 7.7
IMDB link: Dazed and Confused
Just before I step of the Richard Linklater-subject altogether, I watched this teen-drama that pre-dates Before Sunrise with two years…
Thinking that this is just another senior year-knockoff of Grease, will be the biggest mistake you ever make. But expecting another pretentious teenage discussion on the realities of life, like in The Breakfast Club*, would be another mistake. This movie is almost like a mix between the two aforementioned films with just a dash of Rebel Without a Cause.
The first renewing thing about this film, is the fact that where other similar movies seem to portray the whole senior year, this movie portrays only one day. Does that mean that there is less character development? Certainly not, these small-town teens are explored just as intensely (even more?!) as their counterparts.
You cannot mention this film without noting the fact that both A-list heavyweights; Ben Affleck and Matthew McConaughey, had early starts in this film. This film also saw the first time that McConaughey said his most famous line: “All right, all right, all right”! And, of course, the music! Who can forget the amazing soundtrack of this film?
The past week, I have done quite a bit of reading on voyeurism, scopophilia and schadenfreude. In terms of law, psychology and literature, these three terms have the same, yet somewhat distinct meaning. I was specifically searching for instances in this film where examples of these could be found- and I was not disappointed!
Affleck’s character O’Bannion, has a very sickening liking of beating freshmen with a bat. Although the other seniors partake in the hazing as well, it seems that O’Bannion derives a certain amount of pleasure from torturing the freshmen. Schadenfreude is described as the pleasure derived from the misfortune of others. O’Bannion most definitely show signs of exactly this.
Stepping away from the characters for a moment; it is interesting to see that by showing not only the injustice to the freshmen, but also the enjoyment that O’Bannion derives from the act, the director literally puts the viewer in the place of the voyeur.
I come from a time where hazing was still allowed (hazing was only forbidden in South Africa in the most parts in the last five years). It is so difficult to change one’s mindset over those injustices. As I was watching the film, you feel no pain for these freshmen as you yourself went through exactly that and know that they will do it as seniors as well. In that sense the viewer is forced to become the voyeur, by a very clever director.
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*I feel that I am obliged to say that although I do not like The Breakfast Club at all, I realise its importance and therefore emphasise this review by Roger Ebert.