This evening saw the end of the 2013 Adelaide Film Festival with a screening of Mark Cousins' A Story of Children and Film. Once the usual niceties of a final event were over (speeches, awards, tears and flowers), the audience was submerged into a smooth yet crisp and whimsical narrative overseeing the window view Van Gogh made so famous. Cousins based the film around a candid segment of his niece and nephew. The camera was on the floor, stationary and allowed journey of discovery into the innocent behaviour of children.
The Director - Mark Cousins
A number of themes were explored branching from Cousins' observations of the children's behaviour. To give you an idea, the first mannerism that was drawn upon was the little girls wariness of the strange and imposing camera. Her body language was translated to the audience in filming terms. Scenes from three different films were used to show that wariness was portrayed in much the same manner. An eye level portrait shot, a down cast chin, a slow look up and uncomfortable fidgeting. It was like walking into an expertly prepared film studies class. Scenes were summarised in 4 or 5 words yet the meaning was perfectly conveyed.
The wearisome niece
Other themes explored included class awareness, the confusing stream of child parenting, violence, the child's unquenchable desire for adventure and the natural instinct to perform for the observers. My personal favourite theme was the concept of childish displays of emotions. Cousins' came up with a wonderful quote about children acting like spoilt little children that gave the entire cinema a burst of the giggles: Impudence and want, the recipe for the strop. At this stage of the film he was switching between scenes of children metaphorically banging their fists wanting more more more. They were always shot with no concept of the consequences which, I guess, is what makes them children still.
The cheeky nephew
The films used to explore the various themes were born of an unexpected array of countries and decades. Japan in the 1930s, Iran, Russia, Albania, India and only one from America's Hollywood era. The film ended with an extrapolation of childhood being cinema and film being a child only twelve decades old. It was a lovely sentiment and one perfect for the closing of a film dedicated festival.
The saddest scene in the film - from Moving by Shinji Sômai, 1993, Japan
A Story of Children and Film was an interesting display of something I expect we've all thought about: the conditioning of children at a young age and their subsequent behavioural innocence. When we observe adults we think "where did it all go?" to which Cousins responds "you lost your innocence and got old." Perhaps this was not intended but the film made me oddly nostalgic for a time long gone. I recommend the watch for a time when there is nothing better to do.