Two movies I saw back to back – this one and “Anonyma – a woman in Berlin” (review above), deal with the same subject. They are however separated by a span of about a decade or so. ‘Swing Kids’ takes place when Nazi power is in the ascendancy. The story is about a group of teenagers who are the ‘swing kids’ – youngsters who swear by American music (especially jazz). In a darkening environment where fascist puritanism was beginning to assert itself, this group move from joint to joint indulging in frenzied dance parties.
This peter-pan world is soon to be torn apart by the harsh realities of the time. Through various circumstances and for different reasons, Peter (Robert Sean Leonard) and Thomas (Christian Bale) join the Hitler Youth, naively believing that they can be Hitler Youth by day and Swing Kids by night. This wishful thing is soon shattered as the whole world seems to turn upside down for them. They are torn apart and soon realize that they have to choose a side.
The story is about those tragic choices that young people have to make in a world gone mad. The easy price of survival is compromise but the question that Peter raises is – is that survival or individual suicide. This is also a story of the consequences of a rigidly dogmatic society that imposes its morality on people – by proselytizing or by force.
The story is well told. The acting by the three main characters is brilliant and brings out the basic personality differences between the three. The changes that happen in them as they slowly choose their side or choose their stand meshes well with the slowly creeping darkening shadow that shatters everything. All in all, a great story well told.