Swing Kids Parent Guide
Europe is in flames, but jazz is as hot as ever.
Parent Movie Review
The Disney people (don’t let those Touchstone and Hollywood Pictures logos fool you, this film is built on Disney money), have brought a movie to the screen which once again looks at an element of the pre-World War II Nazi movement. It’s hard to believe there is a shred of history left in this era that hasn’t been put to film, and I’m sure they had to dig hard to find this one.
Swing Kids tries to get the attention of today’s young people by portraying a group of 1930’s teenagers that would rather dance than fight. The principle is sound, but for most of this movie you are left wondering if these kids really want to do anything else but dance. To risk your life for the jitterbug just doesn’t seem to make sense - until you realize that it’s about more than music. This has less to do with censorship than it does with authoritarianism and freedom, fascism and liberty. The struggles the characters face aren’t just in pursuit of a swinging time, and that goes triple for a character like Arvid, who knows firsthand how Nazis treat people they don’t like. Jazz is important to these kids, but what it represents is far more interesting.
With one harsh profanity, a little nudity (some black and white pictures on playing cards), a good deal of violence (albeit justified considering the period), and a scene where the three buddies proudly urinate on Nazi posters (Hollywood seems fascinated with basic bodily functions), Swing Kids nisn’t a great choice for kids. But considering the horrors of the period it represents, things could be a whole lot worse.
What it does manage to show, is the trials and difficulties these teenagers faced in making decisions as to what they would do, and which side to fight with. The movie tries to touch on the rabid anti-Semitism being taught, and the film leaves you with an unsettling impression that some of these kids just might be happy if only the Nazis would learn how to jive.
This isn’t the most groundbreaking film set in WWII, but it tries to take a hugely complex issue and simplify it for a younger audience. While I certainly wouldn’t show this to young children, this is not a bad option for introducing some of the moral difficulties on the peripheries of the holocaust to a teenage audience.Directed by Thomas Carter. Starring Robert Sean Leonard, Christian Bale, and Frank Whaley. Running time: 112 minutes. Theatrical release March 5, 1993. Updated February 2, 2021
Watch the trailer for Swing Kids
Swing Kids Parents' Guide
What appeals to Thomas about the Hitler Youth? What decisions does he make that make it easier for him to move up in that organization? What kind of pressure does he face to support the regime? What are the consequences to him, his friends, and their families for his decision?
Arvid is a particular target for the Nazis. Why? What was their plan for people like Arvid? How did they plan to get away with it?
SS-Sturmbannführer Knopp seems like he’s just trying to help Peter, but as a ranking member of the SS, any help he gives has to come with a catch. What’s the catch? Why does Peter have to deal with him so frequently? What is his impact on Peter’s life? What do you think happened to Peter after the end of the film?