This is not the story of children in film.
This is a story of children in film.
Maybe though it isn’t really a story at all.
Maybe story isn’t all that important.
Children are important.
Childhood is important.
This is a poem about children and about childhood.
This film is poetry in motion.
This film is, like all great poetry, pure emotion.
Children are shy…they don’t like to be looked at.
Children are performers…they want to be looked at.
Children are fearless…they don’t care about the cold.
Children are afraid…they care about the lack of warmth from those who are meant to love them.
Childhood is full of conflicting emotions…from the peaceful to the explosive.
Mark Cousins watches his niece and nephew, Laura and Ben, playing with a marble run they have constructed in his Edinburgh flat. He has the presence of mind to turn on his camera to capture the moment and the moments that follow. Like Ozu the camera is low, it never moves…we are there, in the flat, kneeling on the floor watching Laura and Ben.
From twelve minutes of children playing Cousins is able to take us on a journey that no other film maker could.
We see the full force of a childs strop in Iran.
We see a young Dane fly to the moon in a stolen ‘plane.
We see Pip crushed by the cruelty of Estella in Dickensian England.
We feel the pain and anguish of Renko as her dreams of a happy home are drowned.
We brush tears from our eyes as we ponder whether it is a cat or a dog.
Was my childhood like this?
Is anybody’s childhood like this?
That isn’t the point.
The point is that cinema has the ability to present us with beauty and truth in a way that no other medium can match. Children are full of both beauty and truth. “I want a chocolate muffin.” says Ben when Mark would say “Why don’t we share a chocolate muffin.” Only one of these statements is pure truth. The truth is a beautiful thing. Children can show us that beauty. Up on the big screen even the most fanciful moments like Elliott and E.T riding a bike across an impossibly perfect full moon are filled with the truth of childhood.
A colder heart would talk of Cousins as a “documentary film maker”.
He isn’t a film maker at all.
He is a poet…in pursuit of truth and beauty.
With this non-story of children in film he has given his audience exactly those things.