Theatre man Johannes Joner's ambitious toying with film form and sociological thematics falls completely flat in this phoney and embarrassing portrait of the so-called "real life" inside the classroom walls of a secondary school special needs class. Joner combined six actors who were given a script with six kids who thought they were participating in a reality concept. The idea was that the actors were to drive the action forward, whereas the other six would provide authentic reaction and drama. I admit Respekt does manage to get the authentic reaction from the six real kids, but their reaction is one of baffled disbelief as to what goes on in front of their eyes. The actors' uncomfortable adherence to the painfully constructed script removes any chance of spontaneity in this setup. Coming into crucial scenes, the actors grin at the emotion they are about to express, and then present their lifeless monologues in Lasse and Geir fashion. Respekt is never close to coming alive.
There is little doubt that Johannes Joner desperately wants to communicate that he understands and believes in (troubled) teenagers. Unfortunately, what can be read out of Respekt has little to do with the mechanisms of teenage life, but looks more like the result of a filmmaker's male menopause. The film's message drowns in bad acting and writing, but even if it hadn't, the point Joner is trying to make is questionable, to say the least. Is he saying that kids would be better off without school? That bullies and gangsters are troubled souls who will open up and better themselves if they are relieved of the unnecessary work of a teacher and get a chance to cry it out with other bullies and gangsters? I don't blaim Joner for rating The Breakfast Club highly, but that doesn't mean he is close to reproducing the magic of John Hughes' film, or even exhibiting the necessary knowledge to make a similar statement. Respekt feels like a prolonged hidden camera skit in which the people who are supposed to be framed never take the bait and thus don't express any emotion. In other words, boring and meaningless.