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Faces of Children More at IMDbPro »Visages d'enfants (original title)

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30 out of 38 people found the following review useful:

Very powerful, feels like a new film

Author: mu74sic from Berlin, Germany
20 June 2004

Just saw the film with live music in Helsinki. It's amazing how he was able to make such a film over 80 years ago (it was shot 1922). And, unlike many other soundless films, it was not at all over-acted. Plus the children were unbelievable! They make films today with a thousand cameras and months for editing it and this one is more powerful than many those of our time. Wow.

I just wonder how long time did they have for shooting the film.

What can I say, whosoever has the chance to see it, highly recommended!

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18 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

Two mothers, a son, children's faces.

Author: Gerald A. DeLuca ( from United States
5 June 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The starkness of the mountain settings and the dramatic weightiness of the narrative suggest a film that could have been made by Carl Theodor Dreyer. This near-legendary French silent picture of Jacques Feyder, with script collaboration by his wife Françoise Rosay, is a story of a lonely young boy who loses his mother and cannot live without her daily presence, so much that he frequently communicates with her photographic portrait that hangs in the house and religiously brings flowers to her grave every Sunday. The father's remarriage at first does not sit well with the sensitive lad who views the new mother and especially her unwelcoming (and emotionally troubled) daughter as intruder and as rival. While as time passes the boy is able to warm up to the new mom, indeed a truly kind person, his treatment of her daughter by a previous marriage will take a sad turn into the realm of cruelty when the boy performs a spiteful act that will lead to unintended but nearly-fatal consequences for his feminine nemesis. This will cause him to regret his actions and recoil in rejection at the fury of his father's subsequent anger and his step-mother's desperation.

Feeling himself rebuffed in horror, he attempts suicide and is a thrilling finale is saved from the water by his new mother, whom he finally fully accepts in her love, forgiveness, and true motherly tenderness. This extremely powerful piece of cinema could well serve as a kind of Christian morality tale about sin, repentance and forgiveness. Yet, if weighty in dramatic tension and lyric in its beauty, the movie is never heavy-handed in tone. The snowy mountain backgrounds of the French Alps serve as a strong visual counterpoint to the narrative.

The performers are all nothing short of remarkable. But special credit must go to young Jean Forest as the boy Jean, who carries a most difficult role without faltering, thanks in part to Feyder's sure-handed direction. Feyder also used Forest in a somewhat lighter role as the title character of his "Gribiche," released that same year. The film has been beautifully restored as a collaboration between the Cinémathèque Française, the Netherlands Filmmuseum, the Cinémathèque Royale in Brussels, and Moscow's Gosfilmofond. It is a wonder to behold and does not fail to capture an audience and often move it to tears. For it is in the faces of children, these children and all children, that our hope can survive.

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13 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

One of most beautiful silent films ever made. [spoilers]

Author: Matt-1138 from West Deptford, NJ, USA
9 April 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This was almost a lost film completely, but was glad to catch it on CINEMA EUROPE: THE OTHER HOLLYWOOD to know that it is still obtainable. The story is told trhough the eyes of a young boy whose mother has died. Later on, his father remarries and the boy hated his new step family. At the film's climax, the boy attempts suicide and is saved by his stepmother bringing them close together. This was wonderfully photographed and edited. You can't watch this little film without feeling a weight on your heart.

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10 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Child Actors Who Sadly Disappeared from Our Screens

Author: dawtrina from Phoenix
25 June 2007

We're in Saint-Luc, a picturesque village in the Upper Valais, and everyone is heading to the Mayor's house to commiserate with him as he mourns the death of his wife. The mayor is Pierre Amsler, played by Victor Vina, but the real lead is his young son Jean, portrayed by Jean Forest. Forest had debuted three years earlier in Crainquebille, a decent expose also directed by Feyder who had apparently discovered Forest on the streets of Paris. By this time though, he's a full twelve years old and with four films behind him, so almost an old hand in the business!

His character is old enough to know something about death and what it means, but his younger sister doesn't have a clue. He walks with his father behind the coffin to see her buried, grieves for her and watches his father's tears with sympathy, while young Pierrette plays with her cat and whatever else she can find. Forest is very good here, all young pillar of strength until he collapses at the graveside, but he's ably assisted by some rapid fire montage work by the editors. This was originally released in 1925 so I wonder if it was before or after Battleship Potemkin with its groundbreaking sequence on the Odessa Steps.

Jean is obviously very attached to his mother, to the degree that he visits her grave every Sunday and sees her portrait come to life and smile at him. However his father feels bad that in the absence of a wife his house and children are being neglected, so he marries again, his new wife being Jeanne Dutois, a young widow who can't pay her rent. This impacts Jean not just because he has a stepmother but because he acquires in the process a stepsister, Arlette, and that leads to plenty of conflict.

The story is solid, very much in the European vein of slow and serious stories full of character development, and that's a good thing. There's decent camera-work too, Feyder and his cinematographers also making plenty of use of the gorgeous countryside to frame his story. It's supposedly France but it was shot in the Swiss Alps and you just can't go wrong with the Swiss Alps as a cinematic background! Feyder seems to be always great when filming in crowds or in public and this film is no exception to that rule. The accompanying 2004 soundtrack by Michael Coppola is great if not awesome, and in fact there's very little bad to say.

The only downside to me was pretty minor, and that was in what seemed to be a little clumsiness in the delivery of some of the actors early on: all adults, I should add, as the children are simply superb. I'm not talking about the traditional overacting of the silent era as this would have been seen as an underplayed film on those grounds. I think it just took a half hour or so for everything to get moving properly, because the film, as you'd expect from the title, is about the kids and maybe the adults had a harder time getting into the story when there were no kids around.

I can't fault any of the scenes that have children in, whether they be between Jean and his stepsister, played by Arlette Dutois, or with adults like Henri Duval as his uncle or Rachel Devirys as his stepmother. It's only early scenes between Vina and Duval or Vina and Devirys that don't quite carry the same weight. Thankfully the children are present for almost the entire film and these scenes are hugely impressive and yet very subtle, often without the benefit (or the distraction) of title cards.

I got drawn into this one far more than into Crainquebille and, to be honest, got lost in the magic of it. By the time the end arrived, which seemed far too soon even though the film is nearly two hours long, I'd forgotten about all of that minor downside entirely. What amazed me most is that none of the three children had long careers in the film industry, stunning given their performances here. According to IMDb, this was Arlette Peyran's only film, and Pierrette Houyez only made three. Jean Forest, the star of this film, went on to appear in ten in all, but switched to a career in radio. What a shame!

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13 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

A breath-taking MASTERPIECE

Author: james676 from Teaneck, NJ
18 June 2007

I was extremely blessed to see the U.S. television debut of Visages d'enfants on Turner Classic Movies. My god, this was a masterpiece. Why can't contemporary films be half as good? The children were superb! The acting was magnificent. I thought Jean Forest was astonishing as Jean. Such superb acting from a 12 year old. His performance in the first five minutes of the film is exquisite. I thought Arlette Peyran, portraying Jean's step-sister was magnificent as well. I was just depressed to learn that this was her only film! How unfortunate. She had star written all over her. The adult actors are wonderful. I loved Rachel Devirys portrayal of the step-mother. Such love and grace in that performance. The scenery (all shot on location in the Alps) is glorious. This was a perfect film. The music was heavenly. PLEASE SEE THIS FILM.

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5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:


Author: movingpicturegal from Los Angeles
18 June 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Excellent and moving silent film following the story of a young boy who has trouble coping with the sudden loss of his mother followed by his father's remarriage. In the village of Saint-Luc, in the Swiss Alps, the film opens in the parlor of a house where the coffin of the dead mother is brought down the stairs before the whole village including grief-stricken father and especially upset son, Jean. The daughter, Pierrette, seems too young to understand what is going on as she blows soap bubbles and plays with her doll (and in fact is actually told by a neighbor lady that her mama is "on a trip").

Jean now prays each night to a large photograph of his mother, which is prominently perched right above his pillow - he even imagines her coming to life as she smiles down on him. Every Sunday, father and son place flowers on her grave, but the father soon meets a local widow and her daughter Arlette, and before you know it dad stops visiting mama's grave and comes to the decision he will remarry. But he decides that Jean is just too sensitive to be told the news and recruits the boy's god-father to take him out of town while the marriage takes place, then tell the boy and send him back when the new family is safely in the household - h'm, kind of an odd plan, it seems to me, just leaving the boy out of everything (he doesn't even get to attend the wedding - and the whole village is there!). Anyway, when Jean gets back he immediately gets into a fight with new step-sister Arlette. Now I was expecting some real problems with the new mom perhaps treating him badly in the way of the often seen evil movie stepmother - but she is actually very kind, gives lots of love and encouragement in trying to join these two families together as one family, and even seems to treat all the kids equally. But the fighting continues between Jean and Arlette, mostly caused by Jean who tries to exclude Arlette from playing with them and seems to like to pull pranks on her involving her doll, which he eventually pushes off the family horse and cart into the snow - all leading to a possible tragedy as Arlette is caught in an avalanche.

This is a terrific film, very well photographed and very scenic, visually like a gorgeous picture postcard. An effective scene during the funeral procession features rapid cutting between the boy's face and the coffin - another scene looks like it came straight out of "Heidi" as Jean and Arlette are at the top of a mountain surrounded by the peaks of the Alps and a herd of goats. The acting in this film is natural and very well done by all - the kids are particularly good, their faces expressively showing every thought, especially Jean Forest, who plays Jean, who gives a really top-notch and memorable performance. The tinted print of this looked very nice for the most part, the orchestral score suits the film well and at times is extremely good. A remarkable and beautiful film - a treat to see.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

A unique and lovely film

Author: planktonrules from Bradenton, Florida
21 February 2010

This is a unique silent film--partly because of its location and partly because of the story. While "The Faces of Children" was a French-made film, the movie was shot in the French-speaking portion of Switzerland. This provided a wonderful backdrop for the story--with lovely mountains and rustic scenery. As for the story, it was much more personal and sweet than you'd typically see and was very compelling.

The film begins with a funeral. The Mayor's wife has just died--leaving him and his two children behind. After trying to make a go of it, the man realizes he needs a mother for his children and proposes to a local widow--who herself has a young daughter. But, unlike the Brady Bunch, this new blended family did not magically work out--as the parents, in hindsight, did a pretty lousy job of breaking this to the kids--in particular, the 12 year-old boy. It actually came to him as a bit of s surprise--and to make matters worse, they gave his old bedroom to his new step-sister and sister. You could understand how the kid could feel alienated. Over the next few months, the boy (Jean) had a hard time adjusting. Much of his anger was displaced on his step-sister. Ultimately, this resulted in two near-tragedies.

Overall, a very good story that doesn't get too schmaltzy and has a lot of nice action. Well-paced, nice cinematography and very good acting by the children--this one is well worth seeing.

By the way, while it doesn't significantly harm the picture, like many of the silents, a small portion of the film has severely degraded. This is very normal and the damage is minimal but pretty obvious when it occurs. The old nitrate film stock was very unstable and tended to turn to powder, liquefy or even explode!

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Are You My Mother?

Author: wes-connors from Earth
20 August 2012

In the mountains of Saint-Luc, devastated pre-teen Jean Forest (as Jean Amsler) attends the funeral of his mother. Too young to understand, little sister Pierrette Houyez (as Pierrette) happily plays at home. She will be told mother is on a trip. Despondent father Victor Vina (as Pierre) is especially concerned about raising his girl without a mother. Soon, he passes on visiting his deceased wife's grave with son Jean to spend time with neighboring widow Rachel Devirys (as Jeanne Dutois). They are married and Ms. Devirys moves in with her own daughter, Arlette Peyran (as Arlette). Shuttled away for the wedding, Jean resents the intrusion...

This excellent silent is almost derailed in the early running. Specifically, it is when young Jean is determined too sensitive to attend his father's second marriage and sent off to live with his godfather (Henri Duval). The kindly priest's mission is to break the news to Jean gently, and return him within a month. It ends with Mr. Duval dropping Jean off some distance from his house; the boy walks home, alone and unannounced. Then Duvall, presumably a close family friend, is not seen again. All in all, this is a strange way for the adults in this drama to treat a child. It illustrates isolation, of course, but could have been left out or done more eloquently...

However, there are no problems understanding this story. In the opening, director Jacques Feyder crushes the screen with the dead mother's coffin, which we see through the eyes of her son. The death of a parent and introduction of a replacement has a profound effect on young Jean. We feel the full weight of that casket. Performers, especially the children, are captured acting naturally. Location photography of the Swiss Alps is beautiful, especially as set up and angled by Mr. Feyder and his crew. The indoor/outdoor sets are terrific, also. And, the ending approaches D.W. Griffith's "Way Down East" (1920) in icy edited excitement.

******** Visages d'enfants (1/24/25) Jacques Feyder ~ Jean Forest, Victor Vina, Rachel Devirys, Henri Duval

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4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Rather a humanistic than a religious view on the origins of sin and virtue

Author: Ingo Schwarze from Karlsruhe, Germany
13 January 2008

This is not at all a mountain film: The pictures of mountains are few, of relatively little power even considering the time of the turning, and, as soon as the camera ventures higher than the cows and goats of the mountain pastures, of no credibility at all, if ever you have visited glaciers and alpine mountains yourself. But that's no problem; this is not about mountains, but about people, and it's an excellent film about people.

In another comment, Gerald A. DeLuca calls this is a movie about "sin, repentance and forgiveness", and certainly, Christian religiousness thoroughly shapes both the cultural context of the story and the feelings of all the characters in situations of doubt, fear and distress. Yet, this is much more than a "Christian morality tale".

In Christian tradition, there are two stories about the origin of sin: Eva and Adam and Kain and Abel. On first sight, the story of Jean and Arlette is somewhat similar to the story of Kain and Abel: It's a story about hate among brothers and sisters, about envy and jealousy. Yet, in Kain and Abel, jealousy is the primordial sin, an evil reaction to incomprehensible or unjust behavior of God.

Not so in "Visages d'enfants": there is no primordial sin in the movie. All the characters are capable of love and understanding, none of them is actually evil or cruel. In that respect, it is quite humanistic, in spite of the ubiquitous religiosity. Where, then, does sin come from? The origins shown in the movie are surprisingly simple: plain misunderstandings, subtle and unconscious inattentiveness to the feelings of others, well-intentioned behavior all the same hurtful to other's feelings, and to a large extent: fear and pain.

The ultimate cause of the drama is obviously Pierre's failure to adequately address his son's intense mourning. But my impression is that the father is above all afraid and feeling helpless. In particular, he is afraid that he won't be able to stand a solitary life for long, he is afraid that he won't be able to cope with the household work beside his duties as the mayor of the village, he is afraid that he won't be able to show enough of his love towards his two children, he is afraid of losing patience with them as indeed sometimes he does, he is afraid of failing his children's' education. His courage is sufficient to tell the priest about part of his anxieties, but he lacks the strength to show weakness in front of his son. All those small weaknesses, failures and misunderstandings are extremely beautifully and convincingly depicted in the movie and you also see again and again how small hurts done breed mistrust, malice and hate, and hate breeds new hate, getting worse and worse.

In Christian tradition, the remedy to sin is remorse, confession, prayer and penance; and ultimately, trust in divine mercy. In the film, there is indeed remorse, in particular in Jean. Confession is not done in front of God, but in front of other human beings. Prayers do not ask for divine pardon, but for help in earthly distress. There is no trace of penance at all. Salvation does not arise out of divine, but out of human mercy and love.

Of course, overcoming evil by means of forgiveness and love is a central concept of Christianity. Yet, Jean and his family need remarkably little help from God: No doubt, they do pray hard for divine help, but they are most successful when they act themselves in human, pitiful, and in particular in courageous ways. They prevent tragedies when they overcome their pride and fear, they find help when run they for it, they save lives when they put their own life at stake, they find love when they save their enemies.

In Christian tradition, even more than jealousy, the origin of sin is alienation from God, the decision of Woman and Man to live their own life, to gain knowledge by themselves, not to respect the limits that God set them. Ultimately, that's why only God can save them in the end. But in this film, people save themselves by overcoming their own weaknesses and finding their own strength, compassion and love.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

a dark vision of childhood's face

Author: lyraaqb3 from Ireland
15 September 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Now I'm not usually one who particularly gravitates to films centred on domestic and family drama. For instance, I ever really warmed at all to "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" or "Life With Father". So I was not predisposed towards towards the French film, "Faces of Children". But after a few minutes the film caught me.

Far from being a nostalgic picture of childhood, I feel that this film is a study of the various "faces" of "chiIdhood" as they manifest themselves in the actions and motives of the two main children. It opens with the funeral of Pierre Amsler's wife. Pierre has two children, a sensitive boy. Jean and his little sister, Pierrette played by Jean Forest and Pierrette Houyez respectively. Jean's reactions during the funeral clearly show how deeply he loves and misses his mother.

Thus, when the father remarries a widow with one daughter Ariette {Ariette Peyran} Jean's problems begin. During the initial movement of the plot. we are surely very sympathetic towards the boy. But as the story progresses my feelings change and I begin to pity Ariette who is treated shabbily and cruelly by Jean. The dysfunctional relationship is developed through a series of scenes dominated by the gratuitous cruelty of Jean. It is a face of childhood which contrasts to the gentle and sensitive side we see dramatised so poignantly in the first part of the film. During most of the film, we cannot help but share the deep hurt and anguish of little Ariette {another face of childhood}.

Throughout the various incidents, the stepmother's character is developed beautifully. She is never presented as the cause of Jean's distress, rather we see a sensitive, gentle, woman filled with a sweet maternal love. She makes persistent attempts to win Jean's love and he never really responds. Rather, he torments Ariette and fuels their mutual hatred.

Before you think that I am demonizing Jean, much of his anguish springs from a feeling that his dead mother has been disrespected by the action of his father's remarriage. He finds himself moved to a small room in the back and at one point discovers that the second Mrs Amsler intends to take some of his mother's clothes and make them into dresses for the girls. Of course, he freaks out. Of course he demonizes his stepsister--she's an easy and obvious target. Still, Jean, too, is only a child and is not fully aware of his irrational behaviour or the serious consequences that finally flow from it.

But In the end he must recognize this if he wishes to grow, he must face his own demons. He does so, and anyone who watches the ending of this film without their eyes misting up must have a heart of stone!

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