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Ghastly and ghostly children, "dirty little white girls," and the child as witness and as victim have always played an important part in the history of cinema, as have child performers. Yet the disruptive power of the child in films made for an adult audience has been a neglected topic. The Child in Film examines popular films including Taxi Driver, Man on Fire, and contemporary Japanese horror, as well as "art house" productions such as Mirror, La Jeté, and Pan's Labyrinth, and questions why the figure of the child has such a significant impact on the visual aspects and storytelling potential of cinema.
Karen Lury argues that the child as a liminal yet powerful agent has allowed filmmakers to play adventurously with cinema's formal conventions, with far-reaching consequences. She reveals how a child's relationship to time allows it to disturb conventional master-narratives and explores how the concern for and investment in the child actor conceals the reality of film acting and the skills of the child performer. She addresses the expression of child sexuality, and questions existing assumptions as to who children "really are."