Maurice Pialat (1925 – 2003)

“L’Enfance Nue” describes the situation of children abandoned by their parents to quickly start to comment about a much more widespread phenomenon of child neglect in today’s society. According to the film, the physical abandonment of children is the psychological essence of child neglect. By depicting the destiny of a foster child, Francois – his way to criminality as a violent way of self-assertion, and by analyzing the details of his behavior, Pialat points out the inadequacy of the very organization of the care for abandoned, abused and neglected children in modern society.

Foster parents often don’t understand that the abandoned children are not just abandoned but traumatized by this and that they search for reasons why this happened to them and expect this to happen again. With all the best intentions parents-volunteers don’t know that it is not enough to love a child – traumatized child is mistrustful of adults’ love and is prone to unconsciously resist their influence and authority. Many foster parents (full of best intentions and sincere desire to help) cannot unconsciously forgive the child whom they adopted, for his/her emotional “resistance” (but this “resistance” is based not on “stubbornness” or “bad nature” but on child’s fear that the new parents will not accept the newcomer into their family and that again he/she will be refused and thrown out. Child can try to hurt himself or adults attempting to help him (or, as with Francois, to hurt the world of adults in general) not because he is “evil” looking for the way to destroy “good”, but because the young ego can think only in terms of attributing behavior to the will of those who act, not to “abstract” determinants making people behave in a certain way, not conditions of life (including ideological dogmas and religious superstitions) influencing people from their childhood and adulthood, forming people’s psychological proclivities and reactions. But aren’t adults feeling the same like children? And aren’t human laws are created by these adults who are like children, children inside adults? For the child it is either he is guilty for being abandoned or people who abandon him or those who are similar with them, like for adults it is child who is responsible for his misbehavior. Foster parents have to be helped to learn more about child psychology in order to react to the child’s ambivalent feelings less sentimentally.

The film is involving and scrupulous research into the psychology of child’s emotional trauma. Some performers from the first glance may look as not professional actors but again and again they surprise the viewers with amazing emotional elaborations of their characters’ reactions. The film is a “fiction” which is more “verite” than many documentaries.

Proper child-rearing starts with humanistic education of parents, but this can happen only if a whole society will invest in it.

Francois is an intelligent and a sensitive child who was already refused by several foster parents for stubbornness, non-compliance and disobedience, for having, as if, some kind of a hermetic box inside his head which the adults couldn’t penetrate with their love and which is always full of unpleasant and unexpected surprises. In his last foster home he met the bedridden old woman who, it seems, became his last chance – she didn’t treat him like a dependent child who fell on her shoulders with expectations and demands, but she simply started to share with him her own impressions and feelings about human life.

This old woman, who wasn’t his foster parent at all and showed interest in his real reactions, tastes and desires, was Francois’ last hope. He became emotionally fixated on her, rapport with her became so important for his life. But children (and adults) who are already traumatized are more vulnerable for the deprivations – when the old woman suddenly died, Francois immediately returned to destructive behavior, and his adversity towards the world of adults became more pronounced than before.

Francois in a rare moment of being hopeful

Family meal in one of Francois’ foster families is as “serious”, gloomy and boring as his whole destiny, in spite of his new parents’ awkward but sincere attempts to care for him. For abandoned children it is especially difficult to feel themselves happy as a part of a family unit. They tend to withdraw into themselves, become in one moment manically overactive, and in another depressed.

Posted on June 27 2011 –   Maurice Pialat’s “L’Enfance Nue” (1968) – Stationary Society vs. Children’s Existential Adventurism by Acting-Out Politics