The Story of Film: An Odyssey by Mark Cousins will hopefully go down as one of the best television series ever produced. It is a must-see for anyone interested in studying film as over 15 hours it takes the viewer on a journey from the earliest days of film at the end of the nineteenth century to the present day.
A Story of Children and Film feels very much like a continuation of this work as Cousins takes on a similar journey, this time under the theme of childen’s portrayal in cinema. Featuring around fifty different films, it is an impressive piece of work probably best described as a cine-essay, or even cine-poem.
The film opens with footage of Cousins’ two nephews and nieces. They have constructed a tower for marbles to run through. Cousins narrates this footage as they work together, argue, show off and imagine, showing us how these and many more emotions have been portrayed through out the history of cinema.
Some of the films featured will be familiar to viewers, such as E.T. and Charlie Chaplain’s The Kid. However, like The Story of Film, Cousins is keen to look beyond Hollywood, and shows us films from Iran, Czech Republic, Russia and beyond as he highlights the way different cultures and directors are able to capture the full range of emotion children display.
The point Cousins seems to making through all this is that children, unlike adults, are much better at showing us how they really feel. Therefore, children are at their best on screen when they are not really ‘acting’ at all. ‘Acting’ is what adults do.
If there is one complaint to be made about A Story of Children and Film it is that it does feel very similar in tone and content to The Story of Film. Although his content and opinions are all original to this piece, his style is virtually identical, and as such this feels like something that would have fitted well as a bonus feature on The Story of Film DVD.
Despite this, if you are a fan of A Story of Film this is well worth seeing, and if nothing else gives you a least a dozen interesting films that you will feel you need to check out after seeing it. Cousins is one of the most unique, thoughtful and interesting voices within film criticism today, and A Story of Children and Film contains all these characteristics.