Sunday, March 02, 2008

The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane

One of the best "little" movies ever made, The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane rakes up several complex issues in the mind of the viewer. How much independence does a child really have to live his or her own life? Especially if the child be "different" from others, if he or she has other tastes. Jodie Foster stars brilliantly as the thirteen-year-old girl Rynn Jacobs who dares to dream big and then dares to implement them, a bit ruthlessly. A girl who loves Emily Dickinson, a girl who can understand the intentions of a young, pervert man, a girl who does not bow down to the landlady in spite of all her threatening and her extraordinarily proprietary, insolent air and who responds in as insolent, as audacious a manner, and a girl who could understand why her father wanted to kill himself and why now she has to make the best of her life without compromising with anyone.

The film's strength is its cooped-up atmosphere of the scene being almost always centered at almost one place: the drawing room of Rynn's home. The location's the same whether it's the pervert son (played by Martin Sheen) of the landlady trying to force or blackmail Rynn, whether it's the Italian police officer who's again intruding Rynn's privacy, or whether it's something concealed, something only hinted at by circumstances. Your suspense builds up until Rynn tells the whole story to a young boy who she begins to trust and love, and it's only then that relief falls in place. I still don't know whether Rynn is true in her part of the story about her father, or is there something more? Is Frank Hallet, the pervert, just that, or does he represent something more? Maybe, there's a body yet to be found!

It's this Saki-esque tone of the story that leaves you so much on tenterhooks. Jodie Foster plays her part to perfection, cool, composed, and collected - you ever can't tell whether she's telling truth or not, even though you've got the benefit of being the third party, of being the viewer. The whole room, the house bristles with warnings, dangers, as if screaming that here another pervert lives, and there's no guarantee who's going to have the almond-tasting tea next! Martin Sheen brings a new dimension to the film, that of the pervert whom everyone knows as the pervert. So he has got to fight on his way in the town, somehow try to deny his tattered reputation, and yet always be on the lookout for damaging it anew, for again getting attracted to where the world would call him a pervert.

Based on Laird Koenig's novel of the same name, the film won two Saturns in 1977.

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