Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Wonder of Childhood

I had to wait until I was an adult to feel alone, as I was blessed with a brother only three years my junior. To be so alone as a young child that you enter a fantasy world so compelling that you begin to see it as part of the real world can be as terrifying as it is magical.

Two films, over 60 years apart, explore this phenomenon in interesting ways: Val Lewton's The Curse of the Cat People (1944) and Pan's Labyrinth (2006) from Guillermo del Toro. Both movies are about a young girl cut off from other children and feeling estranged from her parents. The fantasy has the element of the fabulous and directly influences the child's feelings and actions in reality. Each film in its own elegant fashion demonstrates that no matter how phantasmagorical and fearful a child's fantasy, it cannot challenge the horror of the world inhabited by adults. In The Curse of the Cat People, the fantasy is therapeutic and brings the child's family together, while in Pan's Labyrinth, the resolution is horrifically tragic.

These pictures have an important and very rare quality - they pay homage to the wonders of childhood and it's precious innocence. Children are in the world not of it, and they have much to teach us if we would take notice and share their wonderment.