From Wild Strawberries to Breaking Dawn – musings on film scares for children
Bella and Edward won a battle in the Swedish court system this week. After two appeals, the court finally ruled in the favour of the movie distributor, setting the age limit for The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn part 1 to 11 years (which means 7 years in company with a parent).
Their decision came less than 24 hours before the opening night, saving that day for thousands and thousands of teenage girls all over the country.
The court went against The Media Council, a government agency who previously had put a 15 year limit at the movie, since they thought that watching a caesarean without any painkilling was too much for the kids to stomach.
Right or wrong? I don’t know. The older I get, the more blurred become my memories of what it was like to be 12 years old. Besides I imagine that the 12 year olds of today are far more jaded than I was at the same age after being exposed to so much in their everyday online life anyway. I honestly find it difficult to draw a line, to make a call on what is too scary or harmful for minors to watch.
Clocks without pointers
As far as I can remember, the movie that scared me most as a child had nothing to do with blood and physical violence. The movie in question was Wild Strawberries by Ingmar Bergman.
I don’t think I watched the entire film. But I remember getting a glimpse of it as I visited a friend, whose parents were watching it in the background. There was this one scene, one image that got etched into my memory forever: the dream sequence with the clocks without pointers. I can’t explain why, but the image of those clocks belongs in nightmares. It still gives me chills even to recall it in my memory, and I still find watch shops unsettling, like clowns.
Frightening programs for children
But it’s not just movies intended for grownups that can freak you out. Sometimes a program intended for children can be just as scary.
I have particularly bad memories from the series that the Swedish actor Staffan Westerberg did for the Swedish television in the 70s. They were very imaginative and dreamlike, and in retrospect I can see their poetical quality. However – there was arguably something eerie about them.
I especially recall one show where Staffan pictured life as an endless amount of boxes, one in another like Russian nesting dolls. The signature song went: “In a box in a box in a box in a box, there live you, there live I and there lives Mr Nothing”.
Mr Nothing was a very small and invisible creature who lived in a tiny little box at the core of everything. One day Staffan decided to lock Mr Nothing in, putting a lid on his box for a reason I didn’t understand. But this turned out to have a devastating effect, since Staffan all of a sudden found himself trapped in his box. Apparently someone bigger than him had put a lid on it and a tormenting scene followed as he desperately tried to find a way out of the box, crying for help from “The World”, which was a mysterious man who sat outside of all of the boxes, playing sad songs on a cello. It was all in vain though and for a six or seven year old the sense of claustrophobia was on par with Buried.
A few years ago it was popular among people in my age to claim that “Staffan Westerberg ruined my childhood”. While I think this was a little bit exaggerated and unfair, I agree that he gave us some nightmares.
The carwash trauma
As a parent I’ve had surprisingly few conflicts about what my daughters should be allowed to watch. I believe we had a discussion when our youngest was in her 13 or 14s, advising her against some particularly tough horror movies that she and her friends had planned to see on a “film night”. But apart from that most of the time we’ve been pretty much on the same page. This hasn’t prevented my girls from going through some movie induced traumatic experiences though. The worst one, the one that I’m still a bit ashamed that I didn’t foresee and prevent, included a car wash.
My oldest daughter must have been about four or five years old as she witnessed a scene in the Swedish comedy Vi hade i alla fall tur med vädret (In free translation: “At least we were lucky about the weather”). It showed an incident in an automatic car wash, where the family father somehow gets caught outside the car as he’s trying to adjust the mirrors and gets thoroughly washed, squeezed against the windshield. It’s actually quite hilarious, but for her it was a pure horror movie. We live quite close to a gas station where they also have a car wash, which we used to pass every day. For years she was so terrified at as much as seeing it in a distance from the outside that we took alternative routes in order to avoid it.
I wonder what The Media Council would have made of it. Could they have spotted the hazard, the risk for car wash traumatisation?
You never know what turns out to be harmful to your child. The nightmares can be luring where you least expect them to.
Effects of Breaking Dawn
Now we’ll have to wait and see what effects the 11 year limit for Breaking Dawn will have. Will we see a raise of anxiety and sleeping difficulties among girls in their lower teens? Will the nativity drop once those girls reach adulthood? Per haps Bella’s suffering will be enough to scare them from ever wanting to have a child of their own. It remains to see.
And now I’d like to hear your views on this. Did the court take the right decision lowering the age limit? What is your scariest movie memory from your childhood? Feel free to discuss and share. Or remain silent and enjoy your drink quietly.
I have only one more thing to say before my weekend kicks in: