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Friday, August 5, 2011

movie night:: The Fox and the Child

This is perhaps one of my very favorite children's films ever. It is so stunningly beautiful and captures a true and epic struggle between children and nature. My slight obsession with the movie might be tangled up with the fact that I have a red haired, blue eyed girl who reminds me of Lulu in the film, as well as a highly intuitive nature boy. So, I see two of my children clearly in The Fox and the Child.

The plot is pretty simple and classic. Lulu, 10 years old, becomes enamored with a fox she sees in the woods. She spends a good part of the year following the fox, befriending her and eventually thinking she has tamed her. The ending is dramatic and offers a coming of age and more mature understanding of the natural world for Lulu. This is an important realization for children who feel like they want to own and possess everything in nature. (I had one of those for awhile).

With minimal narration and dialogue, the film relies on lush and fantastical imagery to convey the story and mood. The woods is a comforting place, where Lulu begins to see more and more because she is quiet and really looks. One night she gets lost and must spend the night in the woods; the nocturnal animals become active and the trees seem to come alive. She is very frightened, but soon corals her imagination and sees the magic of the forest at night.  When she wakes up, the fox is next to her. She reaches out to touch it (something she had wanted to do badly from the start); you can hear her breathing, rapid heart beat and finally a melting relief as she sinks her hand into the fur on the vixens neck.

Lulu's attachment to the fox as she begins to tame it illustrates the slipperly slope when fascination with a wild animal turns into ownership. She names the fox, Lily and wants her to play human games. "She was my secret... I felt like I really understood her... she was my real friend...." This shift in engagement with the fox portends the upcoming fissure in their realtionship. We clearly see the confusion in the foxes eyes as Lulu's needs change. I will not spoil the ending other than to it all turns out okay. If you watch this with a younger child (as I have), you might want to look it up and warn them of a dramatic scene in the last part of the movie.  Lulu's emotional journey ends when she narrates, "In that moment I understood why humans and foxes could never really be freinds. I confused possesion with love." And she drops the scarf which she had been using as collar.

You can link to THIS blog for some more amazing images from the film. The natural scenery is amazing, and so is her bedroom!

Discussion questions
Why do you think Lulu is so smitten with the fox?
What are some of the ways Lulu got closer to the fox and gained her trust?
How are domesticated and wild animals different?
What do you think is the bravest thing Lulu did?
What do you think is the most dangerous thing Lulu did?
In the scene where Lulu was lost in the woods at night, why was she so frighten at first and then not?
Is it okay to take a creature from nature?
Have you ever tried to tame a wild animal?
Why did Lulu change her mind about being friends with Lily at the end of the movie?

Extension ideas
visit a wildlife rescue in your area
be open to raising and releasing a wild animal if the opportunity arises
go to the woods and sit quietly and see what happens
research the history of  the domestication of animals
match up wild versions of domesticated animals (dogs/wolves, cats/wild cats etc.)

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