Posts Tagged ‘Astrid Lindgren’

To Kill A Mocking Bird

To Kill A Mocking Bird

Court 13’s film Glory At Sea has me thinking about children’s stories, particularly those stories that offer a dark, though beautiful, worldview. I find work that is appropriate for children, but smart enough to be enjoyed by adults really interesting and challenging. I would not hesitate to show Glory At Sea to a seven year old, but I also think its one of the most incredible and emotionally deep films I have seen in a long time.

I understand that there is a long history of fantastical children’s stories that are quite sinister (Roald Dahl, Brother’s Grimm, etc.) but I am not so much interested in fantasy stories as those stories that are only touched by darkness. Childhood can be a melancholic time and I find that works of art, film, and literature that address that directly can be breathtaking.

I for one was raised with a very Scandinavian love for the dark side. My parents are realists, first and foremost, but more importantly, Icelanders as a nation subscribe to a whole cast of nefarious mythological characters who are ready to prey on children at any given moment. Think 13 devilish Santa Clauses ready for all sorts of hijinks and one scary mountain giant named Gryla, and you have a good start.

I wanted to get a list started of works (art, film, literature) that fit into this loose category I am trying to define. Comments are strongly encouraged.


Secret of Roan Inish: The only children’s film made by John Sayles. Tells the story of a young Irish girl who tries to bring her family back to the island they left and to find her brother who has gone missing. The whole story is also interwoven with the re-telling of beautiful Irish mythologies about humans and seals. I saw this first when I was 9 and have loved it ever since.

Small Change: One of Truffaut’s masterpieces, tells the story of children and their parents living in a small town in France. One of the best moments comes when an adult says: “I don’t know why children are always portrayed as being happy. They really aren’t, often they are quite sad.”

George Washington: I have to admit that I can’t remember the exact plot of this film, but I remember it being dark, Southern, involving death and being quite amazing. The tagline: “down this twisted road, please watch over my soul and lift me up so gently so as not to touch the ground.”

Amarcord: Fellini’s autobiographical film about growing up in a small town in Italy. Everything that is sad and beautiful about life. Mixed with a bunch of boyish pranks.

The Brother’s Lionheart: This is a book by Astrid Lindgren that my mother read to me in Icelandic. It tells the story of two brothers reunited in the afterlife. The wikipedia entry agrees with me, saying “Many of its themes are unusually dark and heavy for the children’s book genre. Disease, death, tyranny, betrayal and rebellion are some of the dark themes that permeate the story.” I remember being somewhat haunted by the novel as a kid, but loving it nonetheless.

To Kill a Mockingbird: This novel and film really need to no synopsis, but fall perfectly into the category.

The Writer: It’s perhaps unfair to lump this poem by Richard Wilbur in here since I can’t really argue that it was intended for a children’s audience. That said, his use of the metaphor of a bloody and battered starling to describe the sound of his young daughter working on the typewriter made it seem appropriate.

More to come….

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