The point of view of any given text, whether visual or written, is the lens provided by a creator to experience a piece of work. Different frames of references point to alternative versions of reality, which in turn carry distinctive sets of meaning. Cinematic experiences such as David Fincher’s Fight Club or David Lynch’s Lost Highway may come to mind, seeing that both of them showcase the significance of viewpoint.
The same can be said about Rémi Allier’s short film Little Hands, a short film that tells the story of a factory closing down through the point of view of Leo (Emile Moulron Lejeune), a two-year-old toddler. For a quarter of an hour, the plot follows Leo, the child of the factory’s acting manager, as he is kidnapped by Bruno (Jan Hammenecker) who, in a moment of poor judgement, believes he can negotiate his inevitable unemployment. Needless to say, Bruno’s impulsive plan doesn’t pan out, but this wasn’t the short film’s point to begin with.
Allier’s decision to present the story through a child’s eyes investigates a man’s resort to violence in moments of crisis through an angle that allows him to manipulate an audience’s response in heightened extremes. On the one hand, the abduction becomes even more cruel as the camera movement mimics the harsh motions of Bruno running with Leo in his hands. On the other, when Bruno feeds the infant, he is portrayed as any other caregiver; a provider of comfort. This dynamic is established visually as rays of sunlight beam on both characters’ faces framing the scene with serenity, but also through Leo’s innocent curiosity as he caresses Bruno’s hand and explores the finger that has been cut off most probably during the line of work. This affectionate touch is accompanied by Leo’s insistent repetition of the word “broken”, and perhaps that is the most crucial point of the film. Children speak the truth because they haven’t shaped a socially constructed filter yet, so a mere word takes an added emotional weight. Of course Bruno’s finger isn’t broken, but, in a sense, he certainly is; it’s despair that made him kidnap Leo. That, however, doesn’t justify his violent reaction and in recognizing this, Bruno ends the conflict by returning Leo to his parents.
Overall, Little Hands stands against violence, but while the objective is clear, the source behind that crude hostility, a question posed by the film, is somewhat evasive. Visually vivid and intense with an access to a child’s inherent kindness and beauty (a connection that’s desperately needed so that Bruno isn’t just the heartless antagonist), the film presents dark life moments while managing to stay on the side of light. Somehow, however, with an underdeveloped answer as to why violence is the first response for Bruno, there’s a tiny piece missing.