Directed by Philip Koch
With Constantin Von Jascheroffe, Joel Basman, Frederick Lau
Germany 104 mins Cert 18
Picco is the name given to new arrivals in this award-winning German film about a youth prison. And the newest kid on the block is Kevin (Constantin Von Jascheroffe). At first he tries to stick up for a couple of the weaker guys, Tommy and Juli, but he soon realises that survival is the name of the game: to stay alive you either become victim or aggressor.
Shot entirely within the prison walls using a palette of muted greens, the main appeal of this story is the developing relationships between the young men and how they gradually learn to survive or die quite literally.
It easy to understand how institutional life is responsible for the behaviour of the inmates: most of the time they are just bored stiff of themselves and of each other. Between bouts of cards, smoking in the playground or watching mindless TV they are intimidating one another and engaging in violent sexual abuse. Juli becomes so intimidated by the constant threat of sexual violence he eventually commits suicide.
When not slagging off gays or talking salaciously about their girlfriends, they are flexing their mental muscles on bullyboy tactics to reduce morale and weaken their victims.
It’s strange that the wardens seem totally clueless and care even less about what goes on. You’d be excused for thinking that they were more used to running a nunnery than a borstal for violent killers. The last 40 minutes of this film see some really brutal mental and physical violence and it’s not difficult to understand why the prison was shut down just prior to the shooting of this film.