Lorsque j’avais six ans…

When I was in ninth grade, I had to memorize the first chapter of the Little Prince in french. I still remember it, and immediately recognized it as the story Tahir reads to Amine several times throughout the film.

In the first chapter, a first person narrator tells the story of when he was six years old and read about boa constrictors and how they swallow their prey whole. Amazed by this fact, he drew the following picture:

 

Le Serpent Boa

Le Serpent Boa

He asked many adults if they were scared and they said: “Why should we be afraid of a hat?” And so, for clarification, he redrew it:

 

Un Serpent boa qui digerait un elephant

Un Serpent boa qui digerait un elephant

The adults, of course, fail to be amazed and counsel him to concentrate on important things like math, etc. This anecdote, and the rest of the book, speak about idealism and imagination that children naturally have, which is poignant in a movie about children trying to find their bearings after losing their father. But I also thought it had a lot to say about “looking”. “Looking” never reveals an absolute truth, it is always conditioned by personal experience/opinion/situation–  the first picture could be a hat for the ‘practical’ adults, or a serpent for the boy, etc. The boy in the story leaves drawing behind after the adults tell him to stop doing it, showing that there is a power relationship in the act of looking. The meaning the adults gave to the picture has more power at that point in the story and so, when he later speaks to any ‘hat’-adult, he mimics their beliefs and talks about work, golf, etc. I thought the use of this book in Abouna was interesting because the movie consistently put its position as a production in the foreground. It didn’t attempt to be the “truth” as much as it attempted to shatter the idea that film shows some sort of absolute truth by heightening the sense that there was a hand directing every aspect of the movie.

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