Mean Creek

Artykuł pochodzi z pisma "Guardian"

Mean Creek

There can hardly be any subject more currently fashionable than bullying: bullying in schools, bullying in the workplace, all of it earnestly deplored by government agencies and yet greedily lapped up by millions of reality TV viewers. That delicious spectacle of cruelty dished out to the weak by the strong and the humiliation of the loser is the not-so-secret ingredient of shows like I'm a Celebrity and Big Brother. My personal theory is that the sado-format of grown men and women being made to play rough games in silly costumes and trying not to cry is subconsciously lifted from Dennis Potter's drama Blue Remembered Hills, in which adult actors played children left to their own devices and turning vicious in an idyllic country landscape.
The Potter play, like this disturbing US indie movie from first-time director Jacob Aaron Estes, is part of a recognisable William Golding-esque genre, about childhood innocence being destroyed or being shown not to exist in the first place. Unsupervised youths regress to feral violence and give us a ringside seat at an atavistic struggle. Mean Creek has films like Stand By Me and Deliverance in its DNA, with much weaker traces of more recent ordeal dramas like Blair Witch and Open Water, and the homoeroticism of Larry Clark's Bully.
Ambivalence is there from the beginning. A plump kid called George (Josh Peck) with a brand-new video camera is shown painstakingly setting it up in a corner of the high school basketball court in order to record himself shooting hoops. For a few moments, we see him from the camera's point of view missing easy shots, and then someone filches the camcorder and George disappears from frame. Presumably the thief is going to bully the hell out of this fat chump and smash his camera? No: it's the other way around. The portly boy wrenches it back and proceeds to kick the ass of the kid who took it.
This is quiet little Sam (Rory Culkin) who tells his older brother Rocky (Trevor Morgan) how he has been beaten up. His brother proceeds to inform his best buddy Clyde (Ryan Kelley), the alpha-dog leader of their white-trash crew who habitually messes with Rocky in a bullying, overbearing way. Clyde, in turn, bullies the rest of the gang into a plan to gang up on fat George and take revenge on him - not from any great sense of moral outrage, but purely because doing so would be easy and fun. And he, in turn, is bullied by his own elder brother, and is shown being beaten down and humiliated for the crime of screwing around with the family handgun without permission.
Bullying is not just an individual event or character in Mean Creek: it is a culture, a language, a way of life. Everyone is a pussy or an asshole or a loser or a creep, at least potentially, and everyone has to avoid or pre-empt the accusation somehow. But this horrible world looks beautiful. The action takes place on a sunlit stretch of water on the Oregon-Washington border; it could be shot by Terrence Mallick or David Gordon Green.
The revenge plan unfolds as George gets invited to Sam's birthday party: they are all going on a river trip. Heartbreakingly easily, and unsuspectingly, George accepts this poisoned olive branch and shows up actually carrying an expensive birthday present for the boy who just a few days ago he had beaten up: desperately eager to be accepted, to join in. Little does he know what a horrible thing the group has planned for him as they all clamber aboard their rickety boat.
Josh Peck - otherwise a budding sitcom star in the United States - is very good at suggesting his character's ambiguous moral and psychological status. He has, as he brayingly announces to his secret tormentors, an "LD" - a Learning Disability, and his mom has an LD, too. He keeps jabbering away, quite oblivious to the effect that he is having on other people, how they are wincing and scowling. We know, or partly know, what he cannot: that it is only his imminent comeuppance which is stopping him getting the world's most appalling wedgie then and there. Should we feel sorry for George or not? The question is all but irrelevant as the old cliche about bullies being the biggest cowards is proved to be quite wrong. George proves himself to have a superhuman sort of dysfunctional cunning and bravado.
Before the main action starts, we see the video he is making about himself, see him in his bedroom with his expensive gadgets, see the things that he sees from his bedroom window, see the weird, infinitely recessive spiral design that he has on a video monitor, symbolising his locked-in universe. "This is my private world," he announces with a terrible harshness and sadness.
Estes's movie shows how mercurial the emotional power politics of teenagerdom can be, as well as how scary and violent. The film loses some of its narrative tension two-thirds of the way through and I am agnostic about Rory Culkin himself, the least compelling performance on screen. But the dialogue is sharp and the atmosphere is menacing, with something disturbingly nasty in the air. That creek is correctly described. And they're up it without a paddle.

bravado- brawura
brayingly- w niemile hałaśliwy sposób
chump- bałwan, dureń
clamber- wspinać się, gramolić
comeuppance- zasłużona kara
compelling- istotny, pociągający
deplore- ubolewać, potępiać
disturbing- wstrząsający, niepokojący
earnestly- poważnie
feral- dziki, zdziczały
filch- kraść, zwędzić
genre- gatunek
imminent- nieuchronny, bliski
jabber away- paplać, wypaplać
lap up- chętnie słuchać, wierzyć
mercurial- zmienny, nieprzewidywalny, fanaberyjny
oblivious (to)- niepomny; nieświadom
overbearing- narzucający się, apodyktyczny
painstakingly- dokładnie, drobiazgowo
portly- korpulentny, tęgi
pre-empt- zapobiegać, udaremniać
rickety- rozchwiany, rozklekotany
ringside- otoczenie ringu
scowl- patrzeć spode łba, okazywać niezadowolenie
subconsciously- podświadomie
tormentor- dręczyciel
vicious- okrutny, podstępny, nienawistny
wince- krzywić się


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