When you're young, you absorb pop culture and imagine what it will be like when you grow up, when your contemporaries will be the ones appearing on screens, singing through the radio and winning awards in televised ceremonies. Famous people are always older people and the media speaks to you, not for you. And then one day you get hit by something and you realize that your life is starting to make it into that very same realm of media; your moment in time is starting to crystallize. I was born in 1986. When I saw Antonio Campos' Afterschool at MoMA toward the end of November, I felt like extremely specific experiences in my own life, extremely specific opinions I hold, had been thrown back at me through the prism of cinema like never before. My ideas about my generation had been vindicated, and Afterschool was the proof. I was watching a serious feature film by a director who began at NYU's film school a mere two years before I did. My contemporaries were starting to join in the chorus of media that assaults us all.
Campos, who is now 25, worked on the script that became Afterschool throughout college, and had begun it earlier. He has said that it grew along with the times. Indeed. As Mike D'Angelo perhaps famously (time will tell) ended his review of the film, "this is how we live." Afterschool follows Robert (Ezra Miller), a high schooler at a prep school in (presumably) New England, who unwittingly witnesses and videotapes the death by drug overdose of the school's most popular girls, a pair of twins. Already having a difficult time at school, Rob is asked to help direct a memorial video to screen at a ceremony for the girls. The entire film is bathed in the glow of consumer-digital-and-video-technology-as-social-inhibitors-and-anomie-machines familiar from key works by Michael Haneke, Atom Egoyan, and David Cronenberg, among others. However, Campos' presentation of this realm creates a portrait of technology's relationship to social interaction and the understanding of oneself that resonates more strongly than in the works of the aforementioned filmmakers. This film could only have been made by a 25-year-old, a filmmaker who is among the first generation to truly live and breathe social networking and video-clip websites, as well as the Internet in general, while still in one's developmental stages.
The following conversation between Campos and myself was conducted with a laptop computer taking up the countertop space between us, imposing itself on our conversation.