Ten Minutes Older
Maybe it’s because at first consideration Ten Minutes Older seems to be a very simple film that it gets better with every subsequent viewing. More complexity is revealed each time much like after tasting an old favorite wine; one discovers that some of its virtues lie in its simplicity, and some in its complexity, and then it becomes almost a sort of an empty canvas where everything in the human experience is still possible.
One is invited by the film to reflect on children and youth, and perhaps more importantly – to once again imagine how to look at the world like a child, with fresh eyes, as if seeing it for the first time. No matter that there is little factual information to guide the mind, there are the faces of young people and they seem excited and alive.
The camera moves empathetically from close-up to close-up but stops at one boy who seems to be the more involved in the play than the others. While watching the story unroll in the boy’s eyes one becomes aware of one’s own perceptions about children. How do we perceive children? Young people in general and these young children before us in particular seem to have an inherent cuteness to them. One begins to appreciate how time might change (or even corrupt) this purity of interest, simplicity of happiness, and pleasure of surprise. And the emotions of fear, confusion, and horror are there as well – with openness the children become scared and afraid, but there is no anxiety. One begins to think that anxiety is a feeling that we get as an adult.
Unbeknownst to the children they have become the focus of a revolution; these children have the power to change the world. Because once we the viewers are immersed in the film it becomes so simple to identify oneself with the children, and once all of us have imagined the possibilities – all of us want to be children again.
Often it seems that after having learned something the adult brain shuts off and doesn’t like to think any further. But this film is a rebel against that air of certainty and obviousness; indeed this seems to be the films main goal. Ten Minutes Older inspires questions. It inspires one to inquire and question the world he or she, you or they – that we all are looking at. The question that keeps rising to one’s mind – are we looking at the children, or are the children looking at us? – is obvious but as it receives no direct answer in the film it forces one to think further. As all but nothing could be derived from the film, we are all just looking at time passing by. As Herz Frank has put it himself “The first rule of a documentary filmmaker is: Have the patience to observe life“ (Frank).
Ten Minutes Older makes the silence speak. What could happen in 10 minutes –everything or nothing at all? The children are sitting in a dark room. All the components of the film work together to keep the viewers attention firmly fixed on the children. The lighting creates a special atmosphere; it highlights the children. The music is reflects the image creatively to a surprising degree and supports the story which is so visually emotive.
Sound too is a character in this film, he is not protagonist, but indeed he has an important supporting role. Perhaps one of the most powerful moments of the film is the moment when the music stops for a few seconds at 2/3 of the movie… and then resumes. It is a great example how sound can be used to create expectations and fulfill promises. In that sense the philosophical only becomes possible as a function of the technological. Like the chorus in ancient Greek dramas the soundtrack helps viewer make sense of what they’re seeing, here sound is youthful and even surprising. It startles the children, and teases them, and sometimes makes them laugh.
From aspect of editing the film is shot in one long sequence; there are no cuts, fades, dissolves or anything else that is used to create rhythm in other films. This is not to say that there isn’t any rhythm in this film – there most certainly is. It is precisely because the effects of editing are negligable, and there is that distinct lack of other common cinematic elements, that the power of visual storytelling really comes out expressed at its best. The visuals themselves create the rhythm; some children are in the shadows, some children are in the light. Sometimes it is a medium shot, and then it is a close-up – the images themselves play out on the screen and create the story. And the images are wonderful. Because the film is black and white, as in black and white photography, the textures and the geometrics, the sizes and shapes, they all come to the forefront creating images that are graphic and memorable.
Allured by those evocative visuals and the resonating background music one may forget the emergent knowledge of how much power time really has. One is so immersed in the visions of youth that when the music stops at two thirds of the movie it takes some time for one to notice what happened until we are transported back into reality. This understanding of how our interpretation of time guides our lives is essential to ones awareness and this film helps us to remember. It helps us to remember because this awareness is something that is distinctly lacking in children.
Children seem to be unaware of the camera that secretly observes their reactions, the emotions playing out on their small faces. For 10 minutes there are exactly 10 children looking at something. Both boy and girls show great interest in what’s going on before them. And some of them show great personality. The subtitle – Tale about Good and Evil – gives a pretext for speculation. They must be looking at us, the evil creatures. Are they representing the purity of the children, and us – do we represent the evil world of the adults? Maybe they are looking at the world with good and evil playing out before their eyes? In any case the children and especially the boy seem to bridge the two dimensionality of the screen into the world of ideas, and once there – they escape reality. Because there is no language to divide us the film crosses international borders and the borders of space and time – it becomes timeless but not placeless.
In 1999 – 20 years later – Herz Frank, the author of this film, went back to the same story. He visited the same boy who had caught his interest so many years before. It seems that Frank had been nothing sort of prophetic. Many of the mysteries one contemplated when watching the original were revealed trough Frank himself in this new movie called ‘Flashback’. When making the original he had been younger, and he had recognized all the mystery and excitement of being a child at a puppet theatre, he had felt that joy and with sincerity he had seen his own image in the children. But now Frank shed light on his own life – he had married and his wife was dying, she was terminally ill. By making a new film Frank almost symbolized the idea of growing up, becoming an old man. He had always seen himself as a child, but now he was an adult with adult problems – he had created the tragic conclusion that was missing in the first film.