Films and Their Influence.
GEE, it was a beaut picsher-- six blokes shot, and you could
see falr-dinkum blood on some of 'em," said one of the small boys excitedly. "Oh, yeah," said the other, superciliously. "Well, I bet it wasn't half as good as the fillum that I saw this arvo. There was a bloke in it strangled with wire after he'd shot a man, and was just going to burn down his house with the woman and kids in it." "Sez yuh!" said the smaller picture "fan," and departed for home at top speed to see whether he could get in two or three harmless shots with his air gun at Emily's doll before she got back from her party.
What is the effect of moving and talking pictures upon children? In 1927 mere were more than 130,000 picture shows in the world, where the money invested ran into billions, not mil- lions, of pounds, where it was estimat- ed 150,000,000 spectators at least saw every popular film, and where the pro- portion of children in the audiences, except in countries where strict regu- lations were enforced, was, and is, very large. In Australia an inquiry undertaken by 40 teachers showed that 54 per cent, of the school children go to the pictures once a week, and the other 46 par cent, less regularly. But they all go !
The Cinema and the Child.
TOURING an inquiry made by the
League of Nations into this mat- ter, statistics were produced by a German neurologist, who showed that, of 250 films analysed haphazard,
he found 97 murders, 51 adulteries, 19 ,
seductions. 22 abductions, and 45 sui
cides; the chief heroes and heroines of these films were as follows:-176 thieves, 25 prostitutes, and 35 drunk- ards. It was concluded: "To describa robbery and crime so frequently is to suggest them to the mind, and from the idea to the actual deed is a very small step." Where girls are concerned, at impressionable ages, sentimental pictures, "tragedies of the soul," and such material, combined with darkness and languorous music, occasionally in- spire them to escapadas which may lead to their ruin. Similarly, the in- fluence of the pictures is noticeable from another point of view. The report
continued: "Although public opinion1 does not yet seem ready to accept the principle of scientific talks on biology for adults, the film publicly represents the facts of life in a way which cannot but over-excite the im- agination of children, and awaken their natural curiosity, whila satisfying it in an unwholesome manner. Children who frequent cinemas are frequently precocious in this respect."
Apart from what may be rare sequels, the outstanding criticism of a large number of talkies of the present day is that it vulgarises emotion, mutil- ates speech, applauds the criminal, and presents virtue that is triumph- ant indeed (but faintly ludicrous, or openly pathetic).
Restrictions and Handicaps.
PRACTICALLY all. countries, with
the exception of the English speaking peoples, have a strict censor- ship of films shown to children, and laws regarding the ages and hours
at which children are admittad to pic- i ture shows. Thus, Germany and Hun- gary forbid cinemas to children under 5 or six years of age; Holland, Ger- many, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Fin- land, Norway, and others do not allow children In cinema theatres after 8 p.m.; while Japan, Spain, Italy, and France have equally strict laws and censorship for the growing generation of children. The summary of restric tlon.«- provided by the League o£ Notions' report is extremely interest- ing, and may be commended rto all the guardians of the welfare of our children.
It is ridiculous, of course, to over- emphasise the effect of films, but in a medical sense it cannot be denied that children are apt to suffer from eye-strain, especially when, as Is nearly always the case, they are restricted to the cheaper seats, too near the screen. Late nights and fatigue, the harmful effects of the vitiated air and tho over-heated and smoke-laden atmo- sphere of many pictuie theatres, all take their toll of the health and energy of the childi en, and musk be a handi- cap indeed, not only to their atten- tion in class the following day, but to that resistance which is their only protection against common infectious troubles. On the other hand, It should be emphasised emphatically that the films are what people make them, and in spite of the low stage of their piesent development, they ha\e un- doubtedly a very great future as an
educational foi ce.
Avenues of Progress
TT is obvious that films have come
x to stay, and we should be glad of it But it is equally obvious that this new social force must be guided and directed A cinema is the poor man's theatre, and poor folk often go when veritable trash is shown, when there is a good film the theatres are crowded out It Is obvious, however that children's pieferences can be in- fluenced in the light direction, which Is, after all, the whole aim of educa- tion, and also that the surroundings the conditions of age, the conditions of time, and the standaids for films can all be regulated to eliminite un- pleasant features Heie in Austraiia we suffer most fiom the fact that we aie forced to accept the erotic pre- sentation, which is delibeiately adver- tised as being risky, pseudo-modern 01 cloyingly sentimental, while the sons ot Anzac aie thrilled by the bogus exploits of American aviatois and ti oops, who have besn winning the war on the silver screen for the last ten
Australia v. as in the actual field thiee years before any Anieiicau soldier cnteied it, and her little foice had T, greater numboi of casualties than the whole of the armies of the United States But It Is ridiculous on this account to condsmn pictures that glorify America while they aie made by Americans It is perfectly right and piopei that American pictuies made pnmarily for the American pub- lic, should emphasise in glowing terms the patiiotic American's conception of his countiy, but it is sad to think that Australia should be content to take its pictures secondhand, or forty
second-hand, from foreigners.
Non-constructive condemnation of the "fillums" is merely waste of time; but surely In Australia, with our won- derful atmosphere for photography, the spectacular, the tragic, and the ad- venturous are all catered for by the early convict days; the great explora- tions; the slave trade of the Pacific Isles; the pioneers, with their waggons, plodding into the western sun in search for new pastures; the growth of this nation; the superb history of Anzac: the scenic charm of our native life, and our local industries; the primitive savagery of native life in New Guinea; and all the fairy stories, from Grimm to May Gibbs, in the most perfect of settings.
What plot of bootlegging, gang rob- bery, or sex appeal, told in a language mutilated by foreign accents and negro intonations, can compare with the actual history, say, of the surgeon pirate Dampier, or the romance of Warwick, the King Maker, or Francis
Drake, and the Spanish galleons ? ' Australia to-day is a nation in all but . soul, and the pictures can do much,
If, properly guided, to give us a tradi- tion and that pride of race which is I the spur to national achievement,