First-timer Eva Hasson toys with some interesting ideas and certainly knows how to craft a great looking film, but in the end it all just feels a little too hollow to ever really make an impact.
Another year at the BFI’s flagship film festival kicks off with yet another French teen-based tale of sexual awakening, promising a far more liberal take on the classic coming-of-age formula. The best way to sell it: Channel 4’s Skins meets a European Fight Club, minus the head-trips.
In fact, much like David Fincher’s modern American masterwork, Eva Hasson’s Bang Gang takes its title from a secret underground club too, although this one is a little more on the sexy side. Formed by the film’s central protagonists as they attempt to navigate the harsh realities of growing older and dealing with the expected angst that comes with it, the Bang Gang is exactly what it sounds like. When a number of bored high-schoolers begin to find their small town existence a little too vanilla to bear, they hatch a plan to take their regular alcohol-fueled parties up a notch, embarking on a seemingly limitless odyssey of drugs and bisexual orgies. But as glitzy and freeing as these meetings may initially seem, the expected disaster looms when the teens take their antics online.
Weirdly enough, it’s actually this online element that seems to be the film’s biggest attempt at making itself appear unique. Despite a pretty hefty dose of really quite graphic sex throughout, and an insanely frank outlook on the likes of abortion and sexually transmitted diseases, it’s the use of technology amongst the leads that Hasson rather bafflingly chooses to lead with, dubbing the film “a modern love story” in the process.
Sadly, this ends up leaving the whole affair feeling a little too much like an overly ambitious educational video, pushing a message that’s been touched on plenty of times before, and with far more gravitas than here. Despite suggesting itself as a love story, there’s no real, genuine romance on show, leaving behind instead a tale of teenage excess in the vein of Larry Clark’s 90s shocker Kids, but with far less weight or drive. The hints of sexual awakening instead feel more in line with the likes of 2013’s Cannes sweeper Blue Is The Warmest Colour, but again, Hasson never quite meets par on this front either, eventually leaving Bang Gang as a lacklustre effort somewhere in between feigning genius and simply being functional.
This is not to write Hasson’s debut effort off completely however, as she very easily masters some techniques which others have since struggled with; namely her use of multiple protagonists. It’s a recurring complaint amongst teen dramas of this ilk, that switching focus between several different leads ends up leaving the picture feeling choppy and without any real emotional core or focus to cling to. Here however, Hasson balances her time beautifully, delivering a well-honed group of drastically different adolescents, all of whom prove equally as deserving of screen time.
Similarly, the actual craftsmanship put in here, from the luscious, heavily glamorised photography to the ever-so-slightly nostalgic scoring is definitely worthy of some praise. Although the film’s narrative begins to drag a little in the middle, Hasson’s bright imagery and total mastery of the teenage mindset keeps things, at the very least, entertaining.
It may not quite be the urgent teen wake-up call its director was aiming for, but Bang Gang proves watchable enough, even if that’s just down to its clever characterisation and not in fact its overall story arc.
Bang Gang (A Modern Love Story) (2015), directed by Eva Husson, is being shown as part of the 2015 BFI London Film Festival. Further information about the film including screening times and ticket information can be found here.