Monday 7 October 2019

Spring Fever/Eyes on the Road (A. Snowball/S. Kolk, 2019)

Spring Fever is one of seven films which make up London Film Festival shorts collection ...In an Age of Consent.  "De Week van de Lentekriebels" is, as many of you will know, a schools sex education programme which is well established in the Netherlands.  As with any sex ed class anywhere on the planet, "Lentekriebels" ("Spring Fever") has attracted some criticism and controversy, but much of the world has admired the way in which the programme has demystified sex and relationships for Dutch schoolchildren, thereby leading many a youngster to happy and healthy teenage years.  Anna Snowball's short, lively documentary captures snippets of the discussions in a Dutch classroom where "De Week van de Lentekriebels" is currently underway.

As you would expect, many of the pupils initially struggle to keep a straight face when discussing such a topic - but, to be fair to them, their teacher is no different - yet the smiles and nervous laughter soon give way to some thoughtful questions and answers; it's clear how little these children really know about the subject, but their friendly, good-humoured teacher is able to dispel a few of the myths and assumptions her pupils have picked up in their short lives thus far.  This could be an excruciating exercise for all concerned, but the children have no intention of making things difficult for their teacher.  The film provides an interesting glimpse into a situation many of us won't have encountered firsthand (or if we did it took a very different form); Spring Fever is very simple, but fairly effective. 

A separate LFF collection of seven shorts - Drive It Like You Stole It! - also features a Dutch film in the form of Eyes on the Road.  This film concentrates on three young women who are on a road trip in a car they appear to be living in.  The film's title is directly connected to the comments made by one of the women concerning another's driving, but this moment of friction (which soon dissipates) is not the, or even a, major event here.  Rather, the women's freewheeling conversation takes a turn into a dark and troubling area where they discuss a friend who was subjected to a terrible assault.  While this is a grim subject matter in itself, things get worse when differing opinions start to surface.

Although Eyes on the Road is to be applauded for dealing with a difficult issue, it's unfortunately not a very satisfying piece of work.  The actresses all do quite well, but there simply isn't enough in the script to keep Eyes on the Road going for its duration; even at a brief 17 minutes, the film still feels padded out.  The ending is also highly disappointing, and it's a great pity that what appears to have been a good idea has been so poorly executed.  Eyes on the Road has the air of an arbitrary chunk of a feature film, albeit one you probably wouldn't want to sit through.  But, if for some reason you do like the sort of cinema experience where it feels as if you've turned up late and left early, then it might just be for you.  It screens at the LFF on the 10th of October.

Darren Arnold