Sometimes, when my boys are playing I feel like I'm the only mom in the world who is raising wild chimpanzees instead of children. One of them steals a toy, the other one bites his brother's ear, which makes the other one shriek, which makes the other one push him over... until I have to step in and deal out wisdom and justice like old testament prophet.
Turns out I'm not alone in this, as the opening scene in the documentary Babies, starts out exactly the same way, but with two little boys in Africa. Somehow it was just so darn funny and resonated so deeply to see two children behaving the same way as mine, but in a different culture, climate and clothing.
The movie follows four babies from birth to walking. Two rural (Mongolia and Africa) + two city babies (San Francisco and Tokyo). Oddly enough I had the littlest in common with the San Francisco baby and couldn't relate at all, whereas I felt like our little micro society up here most resembled the African family. Right down to the lack of clothing (on my boys...I do wear clothes) and the personalities and family dynamics.
I'd heard a lot about this movie, and had been wanting to see it for awhile. Orson Scott Card reviewed it again recently, and rekindled my desire to bask in babyness for an hour or two. So it's probably no surprise that when I sat down to watch it yesterday... I loved it.
I'm not sure what I was expecting, but it both surprised me and fulfilled my expectations. What I did know was that it was beautifully shot. If you like photography as an art form, or are are a photographer yourself, the images are just gorgeous. Every scene almost aches with raw simplicity and beauty, while at the same time stays away from feeling contrived, gimmicky or too manipulated.
In fact, it was so honest feeling that it brings me to what I was not expecting. There is no talking. It's not a silent film and you do hear the soundtrack of the babies lives (the conversations and noises that naturally occured during shooting). But there is no narrator, there's nobody with an agenda telling you statistics about births or babies, or steering you towards hammering point. On the African scenes there is no voice over telling you how horrible it is that there are flies everywhere, nor is there anyone pointing out in a Mongolian scene, that letting your child suck on a piece of fat is not healthy. No one's tsk tsking at the Japanese couple for ignoring their child while she destroys a stack of dvd's and important papers and the San Francisco couple did everything so inanely perfect and detachedly annoying that I'm glad the movie didn't give them a big gold star like most stories tend to do (The SF couple was so politically correct, I didn't even figure out the San Francisco baby was a girl until halfway through the film...shame on me).
The other interesting thing was the perspective from which they shot it. Everything is viewed from the baby's perspective. This helps it be a little more PG than it otherwise would be, as most of the time you just see adults and their ankles, although occaisonally you see slightly more of the African mum than you'd probably like. It's still kept tasteful.
Despite the (refreshing) lack of voice over, and because of the uniqueness of the film. This is 79 minutes of unadulturated, unfiltered baby yumminess. It will fulfill all your need for oohing and awwwing at tiny bundles of incredible cuteness. Babies are amazing little things and if this movie had a point at all, it was to show how resilient they are and how it's pretty hard to screw them up. They were born at the same time, thousands of miles a part, with completely different parents, cultures and values... and yet they all learned to roll over, sit up, crawl and then walk (and roughly at the same times).
Sort of like the old saying about how even celebrities put on their pants one leg at a time. This film is like that, but way prettier and more poetic. ;-) A breath of fresh air if you're a mom, or you just need to get away from the rat race for awhile.