CM . . .
. Volume XIV Number 12 . . . .February 8, 2008
Catherine Arcand's atmospheric and absorbing short film, Nightmare at School, is an absolute gem. The unnamed protagonist is paralyzed by stage fright the morning he is due to give an oral presentation on molecules to his class. This situation is common to many children and adults, and Arcand draws on stereotypical nightmare scenarios: showing up at school in pajamas; running but getting nowhere; getting in trouble with an authority figure. What is truly remarkable about this film is that there is no dialogue whatsoever – Arcand uses confident visual storytelling and choice sound effects to convey a sense of setting, fear and, ultimately, triumph. Arcand's invention is everywhere. The school's labyrinthine interior echoes MC Escher's famous stairways, for instance. The subjects of the children's oral reports take on physical form as cats, cars and molecules. The principal uses portable holes to silently enter classrooms. The film is constantly in motion, smoothly flowing between hallways, rooms and characters.
Elizabeth Walker is a student in the Master of Arts in Children's Literature program at UBC.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.