The first thing that comes to my mind when thinking of babies in films is pretty harrowing: the Odessa Steps sequence in Sergei Eisenstein’s epic, Battleship Potemkin (which was famously ripped off in The Untouchables many moons later), in which a baby in a stroller careens towards near-certain doom. Not long after that glowing example is Rosemary’s Baby, followed quickly by the unfortunate and similarly eponymous passive-protagonist in The Baby of Mâcon. So, when contemplating this week’s Outside-in cinema screening, Babies, I’m understandably distracted by it’s quite straight-forward and overwhelmingly-not-clouded-with-despair-and-death look at the youngest occupants of our planet.
How children have been portrayed in film is a fascinating topic, not least because some hold the opinion that they are one half of a broad demographic that you shouldn’t try to compete with in the entertainment industry. Childhood and cinema, available on the shelves in the Arts Reading Room, looks at a wide stretch of cinematic representations of both the occupants of that period of development as well as the period itself, starting way back in the 1890s with two babies arguing for Mr Lumiere.
Although, traditionally, children have often been used in art as metaphorical, not just representational, objects. Imagining childhood discusses this dual role in much depiction of the early years of our lives and the younger lives around us, focusing on what other factors could be influencing these historical images.
Stepping back from the creative arts for a moment, though, and looking more squarely at the aforementioned documentary’s look at the varying experiences of infants around the world, Babies : history, art, and folklore is surely one of the better companion texts to this film in our collection, which looks at the history of the customs around child-birth and early-parenthood over the last few thousand years.
Many other titles like these can be found in the collection, as well as on display during the film.