A Child’s (Mis)understanding
Like many, I have watched my fair share of films over the years, and the vast majority have been quite forgettable. There are a small number that I enjoyed enough to purchase in order to watch them again. But there are very, very few that were so powerful in one way or another that they have stayed with me years after seeing them. (I am still not sure I will ever forgive Walt Disney for the trauma inflicted by Old Yeller.)
When I think about the films I’ve seen as an adult that have really stayed with me, three come to mind. One is The Straight Story, a film based on the true story of seventy-three-year-old Alvin Straight, who drove his riding lawnmower 240 miles from Iowa to Wisconsin to visit his brother, who had recently suffered a stroke. The look on his brother’s face when he realizes what Alvin has done is deeply moving.
Two foreign-language films also fall into this category. The first, Sophie Scholl, is a German film based on the true story of a teenage girl who was arrested by the Gestapo for distributing anti-Nazi leaflets during WWII. Again, the final scene is powerful, but the questions this movie makes you ask about yourself and what you would have done in that situation are what stay with you long after the credits roll.
The second foreign-language film that I have never been able to forget is Ponette, a French film about a fouryear-old girl attempting to deal with the death of her mother. Ponette is not an easy film to watch. There are few things more heart-wrenching than the grief of a young child, and the performance of the young actress portraying Ponette is truly nothing short of amazing. The most fascinating aspect of the film for me, however, had to do with the questions it raised about the way young children interpret (and misinterpret) the words of adults.