A matter as serious as bullying is not usually treated lightly. Perhaps because it is not due, given the terrible impact it has, in the short and long term, on infants and their environment. The film that we are going to comment on today is not going to treat it lightly. Neither with the comfortable moralizing that most fictions that seek to deal with the subject fall into, leaving simple explanations with which it is easy to agree and it’s easier for it to come to nothing.
The social realism that dominates Belgian cinema after the irruption of the Dardenne brothers seems the more or less appropriate approach to address an issue of the entity of this. But Laura Wandell it doesn’t just stop there. She decides to go a couple of steps further in his debut feature, which she writes and directs, entitled ‘a small world‘ and can be found on platforms such as Movistar + or for rent.
The prison’s courtyard
The film follows the perspective of a girl named Nora, who is going to take the next step and start going to school. A tremendous and terrifying step, having to integrate into an unknown environment and with people who will have to please. At first, having his brother there is somewhat reassuring, but soon after he will discover the bullying he suffers because of various bullies.
When I say that it takes the girl’s perspective, the expression is practically literal. The camera is always close to her and is always at her level, making the (few) adults who appear have to bend down to communicate with both the protagonist and the viewer. An obvious but skilfully chosen element of distance that shows the very wise decisions you make Wandel all the time to tell this story.
The main success of ‘A small world’ is the tone. Despite being worlds apart, she couldn’t stop thinking while watching the Belgian film in another film like ‘A Prophet’, also raw and tense. But of course, that one is framed directly in the prison thriller. That a schoolyard can be reminiscent of a prison is proof of how well the director understands the perspective of the children she decides to portray.
‘A small world’: at the heart of the conflict
His way of developing the internal world of these infants is quite a delicacy that is not so easy to achieve. Children on the screen can generate unsought responses without a director who knows how to understand and communicate with them in order to tell us what is going on in their heads. Wandel is capable of it, since her approach feels genuine and her characters don’t fall for simplicity.
Even with some slight dramatic concessions to try to move you directly, the film makes your stomach knot and kicks it every once in a while for a formidable 72 minutes. Not only is it a great film for properly showing bullying and how an ecosystem of violence is produced, but it also finds the most cinematographic ways to tell it without the need for fireworks. Pure narrative force.