In the Eyes of a Child opens with booming, double-pounding drums like a beating heart, paired with emotive piano chords, the melancholic score accompanying two men driving in a car. The camera demands we focus mostly on the sombre-looking passenger with enough close-ups in this establishing scene to identify our film’s protagonist. The music draws to a close as the car pulls up to an old house. “This is where I lived as a child”, the passenger, Ivan, explains to his inquiring friend. The house appears abandoned, the inside visible through the open door. The driver steps out to buy some cigarettes as Ivan drifts into a childhood reminiscence triggered by the sight of his old home.
The piano ballad starts up again, this time helped along with the echoey narration of our protagonist deep-diving into a series of early memories. He stands witness to a younger version of himself, a ghost of his past as he laments the hardships he faced growing up. Significant moments include outdoor games and simple fascinations he enjoyed with his friend; his distant and poorly mother handing him matches for candles used to light and heat his bedroom; his distressed and despairing father crying in the bathroom; mean children bullying him at school for being poor. Ivan is clearly in a lot of pain and these childhood experiences are at the root of his anguish.
It is difficult to feel anything for this character in part due to the poor editing decisions but mostly due to the film’s score, which appears desperate to win over our sympathy before the first frame of the film has flickered on to the screen. The cloying piano melodies and swelling strings pleading for us to feel sad for Ivan. If that alone isn’t enough, the narration drives the point home anyway. It’s just all a little too saccharine. There are some good moments – the scene of the father crying is a standout moment and arguably the best performance in the 17-minute short. The film’s dénouement is neatly handled if cliched, but by this point that is not an isolated case.
Marco Ferrara’s short film is commendable but falls flat in its approach to reflection on memory, depression, poverty, childhood, guilt, and mortality. It is a film that feels personal to the filmmaker and, no doubt, one that he felt was important to tell but, ultimately, some things truly are better left to the imagination...