Between childhood and adulthood, “Rebel Without a Cause”, the classic film that portrayed the first generations of teenagers.
It was one of the first movies – as well as one of the last ones – James Dean did. “Rebel Without a Cause” (1955) premiered after the death of the actor, and it would enshrine as one of the most emblematic films of the 50s and would make Dean one of the first and most famous teen icons.
Nicholas Ray’s film, with and elegant and precious cinematography and a naturalist but precise staging, focuses on the characters and the plot in which they are involved. Jim Stark (James Dean) is an unstructured and confused teenager that shortly after moving to LA with his family is confronted with one of the high school bullies. As he tries to fit in the new neighborhood he meets John (Sal Mineo) and Judy (Natalie Wood), but despite his efforts to avoid disputes and conflicts, the problems continue. At home Jim says he wants to do what’s correct, but the incomprehension of his parents only gets to accentuate his anxiety and instability. The character of James Dean and all the teenagers in the film are the reflection of the American society of those years, the refection of a generation that was called youth and that was between childhood and adulthood. These adolescents were looking for answers to questions that their parents had never faced and therefore they could not answer to them, so – as the film very well portrays – the teenagers acted rebelliously.
During the 40s and 50s these new generations gave birth to teen culture, youth claimed for new forms of entertainment and society adapted and remodelled based on this demand. Hollywood would not be less, and responded with new genres and forms that transformed cinema altogether. “Rebel Without a Cause” is one of the films that highlight this transformation, which would bridge the gap between classic and modern cinema. The key to its success lies in the emotional identification it caused on the generations it portrayed, and that is why it is – along with James Dean – one of the strongest established teen emblems of the history of this film genre.
“Rebel Without a Cause”, still being a classic film, meant a reformist push for cinema. Its regenerative nature and significance in the audience reveal its historical importance, and that is why it is considered an icon both for youth and for cinema.
By Nicolás Solís
Rebel Without a Cause – Nicholas Ray, 1955
Entre la niñez y la madurez, “Rebelde sin Causa”, el clásico que retrató a las primeras generaciones de adolescentes.