Celia (Ann Turner - 1989)

Tonight I saw the 1989 Australian film Celia. I commend the new Beacon Cinema in Seattle for playing it, otherwise I might not have known about it. Far from being a horror movie as it was mistakenly packaged (Senses of Cinema has an essay outlining how that happened), the layers of this film unfold almost novelistically, the conflicts of the adults rippling across the psychology of the children. The setting is 1950's suburban Melbourne, where middle-class yards abut less-tended territory to which the kids escape at every opportunity. But rather than running to some idyllic forest, the kids wage war with each other in an abandoned quarry, a stage for acting out their traumas on each other. It's rare to see the firece and separate world of children portrayed in so much detail without trying to be cute, and in the character of Celia we see a constant struggle with the adult world. Her passion and honesty just get her into trouble, and the losses she undergoes only further confuse her sense of reality, with tragic consequences.

There's an almost comic theme of rabbits in this movie. The government considers them vermin to be controlled, most obviously a parallel with the Red Scare playing out in the time of the story, but I also think of the children themselves, multiplying much like the rabbits and running from parents who continually fail to control both their children and each other, let alone themselves. Celia's own rabbit Murgatroid ends up suffering as a result of Celia wanting to keep it, especially when it gets dragged into war. The movie ends in the world of the children, but in a heavily symbolic way that seems to suggest that the insanity of the adult world has made its mark. If it seems that I have spoiled too much of the story, not so. You should seek out this movie. For me it goes straight onto my list of movies about children and childhood.



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