Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Lives of Others

Not many fictional films evoke real life as well as "What Maisie Knew." Directed by Scott McGehee and David Siegel, it is the story of a child caught between fighting parents, based on the novel of the same title by Henry James. Not nearly as incisive and nuanced as the novel (but what films are?), it still imparts to the viewer the problematic feelings of a child affected by unhappy parents.

We observe Maisie, beautifully portrayed by Onata Aprile, as she understands and does not understand what happens around her. The close camera work, often indoors, focuses our attention on her. The day-lit shots and the natural acting of Alexander Skarsgård convince us that we are watching a documentary. It reminds us of the excellent Yi Yi by Edward Yang, also shot from a child's point of view, with the camera as his eyes.

As planners, we could learn the importance of sympathy and empathy from "What Maisie Knew." As Northern Planner writes, "The more we're in the lives of others, the more we can know them." As we watch Maisie and the conflicting emotions her face conveys, we understand her life. The way to understand others is to enter into their lives, as the camera does. Just some ideas for planning...