There comes a point in every father’s life when he asks the question, “when is it right to demonstrate to your son that you tacitly approve of unrealistic depictions of violence and death and overt womanising?” When you feel that time is nigh, the easiest way to show this is by watching a Bond movie.
I am, of course, being facetious. The Bond movies were an integral part of my growing up. My father loves them, I love them, it seems only right that I introduce my son to them which, to this point, I have not done. He is nine. Every time I previously thought of putting on a Bond movie, I considered the content and realised that I was a little uncomfortable with the relaxed attitude to death and murder, and the casual manner with which Bond treats women. Sure, we can see these things with a pinch of salt and an oh-it’s-of-it’s-time cavalier attitude, but to children taking everything at face value, it poses a dilemma: how is he going to process this, and how is my recommendation of it going to reflect on me?
So this week I decided to introduce my children to foreign language shorts with small amounts of subtitles. My daughter (nearly 7) is a fast reader, and my son (9) is a competent reader, but needs a kick up the bum sometimes, as most boys do. He loves film, ergo, reading subtitles might help. Anyway, it was a good excuse to try them with this 10 minute little marvel.
The story of a hedgehog, uh, in the fog (it’s nearly as obvious a title as this blog’s) is charmingly directed and animated by Yuriy Norshteyn. The hedgehog is on his way to meet bear, where they will eat raspberry jam and look at the stars. The innocence is palpable, so when the dog descends and hedgehog becomes lost, the terror is heightened. He sees dogs, owls, and horses, and they all seem far more unnerving than might otherwise be the case. Leaves falling are a horror.
The hedgehog at one point becomes resigned to his fate. He allows the river to take him where it will, unconcerned with his wellbeing. When he finally gets to bear, bear is frantic, talking extremely fast (the subtitles are similarly fast, proving a little problematic for the slower reader) but even not catching all his words, the intention and impact of his manner is not lessened.
Hedgehog in the Fog is only 11 minutes long, but crams a world of imagery into its slight running time. The layer collage animation style could be crude, but is charming. And the way it presents the world is transfixing. Hope, loss, humour, wonder, friendship, terror, resignation, relief. All these are present here and, for a short film to get across so much is a wonder to behold. For the young reader, this is an essential childhood film. Too early, and the child will be bored because they have to have the subtitles narrated.
I run a separate holistic-film-blog over at http://the24thframe.co.uk. I thought I’d try the simple confines of tumblr to look specifically at, well, films my children watch.
My children are 9, and nearly 7. One boy, one girl. Between them they’ve watched hundreds of films, not just modern Disney and Pixar animation (although that does figure heavily: I’m not a miracle worker) but also classic animation, silent comedies, and I’ve just started branching out into foreign language shorts that actually have honest-to-blog subtitles.
It is this new-found ability to cope with a small amount of subtitles that has inspired me to start this blog. With a backlog of classic films already viewed by my children to talk about, and a literal world of cinema awaits them, this blog should be rich on content that is both expected - new cinema releases - and unexpected - short films from places like Russia and the Czech Republic.
Obviously every child is different - and aren’t we glad about that? - but I reckon, modestly, that between my film knowledge, and my children’s reactions to films, together we can give a good idea of how child-friendly a film is. I’m not here to rate a film on parental content: there are websites out there that will give you a blow-by-blow on what is and isn’t suitable for your child, whether you agree with them or not. I will happily let my children watch some certificate 12 films, because I know my children and I know the film. (Indy 4, yes: The Dark Knight, hell no.) Your children will react differently, of course. What I can do is give an impression of a film from my perspective, and my children’s perceived reactions, and review accordingly.