Saturday, 24 July 2010

OCEANIA (USA/2008/HARPREET DEHAL)

A couple on the beach. A bloodied face. A gun. These visual clues form the opening of Harpreet Dehal’s debut film Oceania, produced when he was just 17 years old. The film centres on the relationship between Amy and Steve, two teenagers exasperated by their lives at home. Amy takes a fatalistic approach to her family’s miseries, toying with her suicidal tendencies and burgeoning sexuality, while Steve refuses to dignify his parents’ squabbles with even a word. The pair’s stories are teased rather than told, and the audience is given only enough information to understand the nature of their conflicts.

If the above description has you thinking of a sub-standard Noah Baumbach family dramedy, think again. Using a consistent colour palette of blue and green and a moody (if melodramatic) soundtrack, Harpreet Dehal amplifies his characters’ anguish, and the more elusive the storytelling gets, the more the audience feels sympathy. Camerawork is shaky but purposeful, with many scenes framed asymmetrically to mirror the disequilibrium in the characters’ lives. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the film is the mature pacing – multiple angles of scenes add dimension to the experience, while patient close-ups eschew action for emotional depth. Though technically precocious, Dehal tries to tackle too many issues at the same time and the result is a little dishonest, particularly in the dramatic moments, but the amateur cast do a decent job of fulfilling their roles. Gentle but touching, Oceania is an episode of teenage angst, culled straight from the source.


Download Oceania at Harpreet Dehal’s website here.





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