From Lolita to The Sixth Sense, the figure of the child in cinematic works has been a contested site of symbolism and controversy. Childhood and Cinema examines how the child in film has ultimately been used to embody the anxieties and aspirations of modern life.
Vicky Lebeau investigates how films use children to probe such themes as sexuality, death, imagination, the terrors of childhood, and hope. The book ranges over the whole history of Western cinema, from the Lumière brothers’ 1895 Feeding the Baby to Walt Disney’s animation classics to Truffaut’s L’enfant sauvage and recent works such as Capturing the Friedmans and Kids. The figure of the child in film, Lebeau argues, is fundamentally ambivalent—always hovering on the edge between hope and despair, vulnerability and violence, or pleasure and trauma—and it ultimately offers a unique way of thinking about the significance of cinema itself.
By turns engaging, thought-provoking, and informative, Childhood and the Cinema challenges us to reconsider the child figure as a conduit for critical reflection on what it means to be human.