What it feels like to be an 11-year-old in To See the Sea
by Saara Vahermägi
- In his first feature, screened at this year's CinEast Festival, Jirí Madl explores the world of a boy on the cusp of his teenage years
Screened in the CinEast Festival's Cinéscope programme, To See the Sea is the debut feature by Czech-born actor-turned-director Jirí Mádl. It tells the story of Tomas (Petr Simcák), an 11-year-old boy who receives a camera for his birthday. He then starts to document his own life, and the viewer is introduced to the joys and troubles experienced by a boy on the verge of his teenage years.
First of all, the audience meets Tomas’ family and best friend, Haris (Jan Marsal). Tomas starts to secretly film his father and soon discovers that he mysteriously leaves home every Tuesday and Thursday. Suspecting that his father might be having an affair, Tomas takes on the role of a detective, intent on finding out the truth. Aside from stalking his father, he also films other aspects of his life, such as his quest to capture the heart of his classmate Stana (Anastázie Chocholatá) or the bullies he sees at football practice. All this is done with the help of Haris, whose relationship with Tomas moves more and more into focus as the movie progresses. Inspired by Tomas, Haris starts to film his life as well, resulting in him becoming the second protagonist.
The movie describes itself as “the first film ever shot entirely (as if) by a child” - the “as if” part being of key importance. Though the story is told from the perspective of young Tomas, the viewer can really feel the guiding hand of director Mádl behind the precisely designed frames of the movie. Mádl has certainly paid a lot of attention to detail, ranging from the constantly surprising camera angles to the little editing tricks he uses now and then. Even the movement and choreography of the actors in every scene is always cleverly thought through – all to give the film a simplistic and naive feel.
To Sea the Sea is too well organised and highly structured to be believable as a film made by an 11-year-old. Rather, it is a grown-up version of what childhood can be like. That said, this doesn’t detract from the child-like charm of the production.