Little Fugitive

Morris Engel, Ray Ashley and Roth Orkin, USA, 1953


To capture something from reality, some filmmakers film a body, performing a task or action, actually doing something without any filter nor the possibility of faking the action. In this example the little boy plays baseball against a machine that throws balls at him, imposing its own rhythm: Joey, taken by the game, forgets he is acting. The camera is set very low, at his level, and films, in a few fixed shots, the little actor’s physical performance: the bat seems way too heavy for him, which forces his body to contort, he falls, stands up, hurts himself… The machine is part of the arrangement and plays its part in the unexpected nature of the scene, as the balls arrive completely at random: when he receives a ball the cameraman moves slightly but seems indifferent to it, the take doesn’t stop regardless, capturing both the boy’s physical effort and the effects on his body: out of breath, sweat… all this happens for real, whilst the camera records it all, even if the framing is carefully chosen to enable us to observe the action, alternating wide shots showing the “cage” where the boy is and the spectators in focal depth and close-ups. Music is added in editing – a harmonica piece that seems to be improvised – accompanies the boy’s hesitations linked to the unpredictability of the scene. Here the actor disappears behind the child who acts “for real”.