Jacques Doillon, France, 1996


In Ponette, the main characters are played by very young children, leaving the adults in the background. At the beginning of this scene, we are literally immersed in their world: the framing is low, there are close-ups, enabling us not to lose anything in the expressions that appear and transform their faces. It deals with important and mysterious things (loving love, being and falling in love), about which the film-maker absolutely wants to avoid any overlaid assumptions, or any projection from an adult mind set: he asked his young actors to do very precise things (to eat cereals, to play a trick to Mathias). The fictional stake is well understood by the children, however their spontaneous reactions, the emotions they present seem perfectly real: the level of excitement rises little by little, the scene’s rhythm speeds up, while they grab Mathias and force him to kiss Carla. The spectator’s unease and pleasure come from a persisting doubt: clearly the children have a part to play, they act, they deliver dialogue perfectly, but are they constantly aware that they are acting, or do they end up forgetting, and forget the camera, so close but not intrusive, taken by the other game, the sweet, magical game? Mathias’ moves, his mimicry, his worries – because the kiss, because it is in the scenario, must be given for real – seem to confirm it, just like the spontaneous shouts. The strength of this scene relies on the film-maker’s bias: not be in the kids’ shoes (psychologically) but to be at their height, physically amongst them, gaining this great proximity.