In Trio, selected for Medium/Short Competition we are reminded of what long school trips were really like… as well as the tough business of being an adolescent.
The eponymous trio of Benjamin Bucher and Agnese Làposi’s short film are Saxanna, Lea and Jonas, thirteen-year olds on a month-long school trip around the countryside and towns of Switzerland.
They are stars of a film whose momentum is driven neither by searing events nor momentous plot twists, rather by the escalation of detail surrounding all matters juvenile – spots and pimples, bouncing your mates off the trampoline, questions about porn, truth or dare tests, teasing and, inevitably, bullying.
Saxanna is the most interesting of the three, both expressive and opinionated. She is also bullied for being overweight by another member of the class (at which point we are reminded of how cruel adolescents can be before they learn to insert a filter between their brains and their mouths).
Jonas, the boy, is shy and seems more comfortable in the company of his female friends, rather than his rumbustious male classmates. He is mildly teased about his skeletal body shape and how it fails to compare with the ripped, six-pack ideal described by his female friends.
Lea chats merrily with both but bitches with Jonas about Saxanna behind her back and, together with another girl, finds the barbed comments about Saxanna’s weight very amusing.
The experience for the viewer is as compact as it is fascinating (the film comes in at a trim 23 minutes) with much of the action taking places in an elegiac Switzerland of beautiful valleys, old villages and cow horns on the soundtrack.
Of course, the flip-side is life on a bus with mobile phone screens on which we even get to see Simon Cowell presenting child performers on Britain’s Got Talent (which must be a first on the European arthouse doc circuit).
The film started life as a document/chronicle requested by the school at which the trio are pupils, but the directing pair very quickly went off-piste. “In the beginning it was a film about the school trip, but we wanted to make it clear that it had to be independent and that we had to have carte blanche and freedom to make something good,” points out co-director Bucher. “In the end we actually did the opposite and didn’t film the school activity, but got some of the feeling or the ambience of these school trips, which we all know.”
“During the shooting there were so many things going on about the intimacy and the relationships between the teenagers that were more interesting than the school and the trip and the education etc,” adds Làposi. “So we decided to stop filming the meetings with the teachers and the lessons, and then we were free.”
When they embarked on the project, they didn’t know that they would be following this particular trio but during prep these kids were the most open and responsive, and a relationship was quickly established.
“I think we didn’t have too much of a plan,” admits Bucher about where they were going to point their cameras. “We were following them and it was very spontaneous,” agrees Làposi.
“But of course we filmed a lot more and then in the editing you try to make sense of it,” Bucher adds.
The pair didn’t have a particular audience in mind when making their film although Bucher admits that “my parents who are 65 really liked the film, and teenagers of sixteen also like it. I think everybody has their own story with adolescence.
The projects marks Làposi’s first film after graduating from film school. She is currently working on two projects, one fiction and one doc but remains tight-lipped about their content.
Bucher graduated two years ago and has since completed a diploma in doc making. “I am interested in hybrid forms of fiction and documentary, which I think you feel a little bit in this film. Sometimes we made some mise-en-scène, or we directed a little bit the teenagers. I kind of like this approach to documentary.”