BRANNAVAN GNANALINGAM reports from the Wellington Film Society. This week: girls on film.

THE TIMING of screening this film probably couldn’t have better. In a week when the world’s media got in a tempest over fifteen-year-old Miley Cyrus’ photo shoot for Vanity Fair because she had the temerity to show her bare back (suggesting she wasn’t wearing a bra). The media got into a lather over the fact that Annie Liebowitz decided to photograph a sexualised fifteen year, drawing in puritanical and art-for-art’s-sake arguments from both sides. If Bettina Blümner’s documentary on three fifteen-year-olds, Pool of Princesses, is anything to go by, the media’s response to Cyrus is far too simplistic and superficial (not to mention sexist). Blümner captures that liminal space between childhood and adulthood in the documentary, the time when people are all too grown-up and self-aware, but still all too naïve and innocent.

Of course, the film is set in Germany and involves three German girls, rather than a church-going daughter of a country-singer. It’s hard to know whether the film’s characters are particularly normal, or representative of their age group, but I’m not convinced this was the author’s intention. Furthermore, it’s difficult to pinpoint whether the shots capture spontaneity or improvisation, or indeed, that they were constructed. As if often the way with cinéma-vérité documentaries, the story appears to have been “found” in the editing-room. However, with the splendid visuals, and the bookended narrative (all three girls only appear together at the start and at the end of the film), it’s hard not to see some sort of construction going on. However, this is a film that tries to capture a moment in the characters’ lives that is often so difficult to explain or depict. There is an uneasy sense of time and lack of chronology in the film that seems to heighten this feel – there’s no attempt to root the events in the specifics of their lives. Instead, the documentary just ‘shows’, almost in the Frederick Wiseman/Maysles Brothers way of brushing hair to have that un-brushed hair-look.

The three girls are a study in themselves. Klara is the extroverted, self-confident one, the girl who claims she wants to be a porn star, and offers advice on how to use a vibrator. Despite her brashness, Blümner also reveals Klara’s vulnerability when she relates to her mother about her mother’s psychologist boyfriend. Tanutscha is the more immature one, calling up chat-lines and asking the type of questions only a naïve person would ask when trying to impress their more ‘world-weary’ friend (and Klara is very world-weary for a fifteen year old). Mina is the much more mature one of the three, she has a steady twenty-year old boyfriend, but he is packing up and heading to South America. She has no patience with Klara’s lifestyle either – doling out motherly advice to someone she’s starting to realise is a very different person to the one she became friends with years ago. Blümner gets the tone right too, she avoids cuts which sermonise or manipulate. Instead she leave us with a warm and moving depiction of three characters who aren’t particularly special, three characters who just live life during that confusing period of adolescence.