Since its inception the world of cinema has embraced the image of the child and both extended and challenged its representations. Vicky Lebeau explores the complex and ongoing adventure of childhood on screen and examines how the child in film has been used to embody the aspirations and anxieties of modern life. Moving from early to contemporary cinema – a process that includes discussions of films such as Victorian ‘Child Pictures’, The Spirit of the Beehive, L'Enfant sauvage, 400 Blows, Lolita, The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser, Tarnation and The Woodsman – she uncovers the compulsion of film-makers to visualize the child and their need to use childhood as a way of reflecting on sexuality, language, death and difference. By bringing together childhood and cinema as two institutions of modern culture, this book ultimately uses the figure of the child – as image, as narrative, and as myth – to reflect on the form and significance of cinema itself.
Thought-provoking and engaging, Childhood and Cinema is an original and challenging contribution to studies in childhood and visual culture that will be of interest to readers in the fields of literature, film and cultural studies.
‘Lebeau’s deft look at cinema’s treatment of childhood puts aside the cosy teddy bears in favour of the harsher realities of murder, death, child abuse and war. Moving seamlessly from The Exorcist to The Shining via Mysterious Skin and M among countless others, this is fascinating rather than squeamish. Excellent.’ – Empire Magazine
‘. . . a provocative and unique study of the figure of the child as it has been shaped by photography and cinema since the late nineteenth-century.’ – Media and Culture
Vicky Lebeau is Reader in English at the University of Sussex and is the author of Psychoanalysis and Cinema: The Play of Shadows (2001).