When “Ponette” was released in the U.S. in 1996, it was with little fanfare and limited release. Even today French films do not receive wide distribution unless they star Audrey Tautou. Ponette is a simple story of a young girl who is with her mother in a car crash. The crash kills her mother and leaves Ponette with a broken arm. Ponette struggles to understand death.
When I saw the classic “Forbidden Games” for the first time, I was struck that it made me think of Ponette for the first time in perhaps 13 years. There are some superficial similarities: both are French; both have outstanding performance by small children; both have a child who loses a parent (or two); both films examine religion through the child’s eyes. The deeper aspect of the films is that the narratives meditates on death. What is the morality of death? How ought one act in dealing with death?
I think the key question is whether someone who is too young to under stand what faith is can legitimately be said to have belief in god. I note that a website has named Ponette as atop 100 film about faith. (See http://artsandfaith.com/t100/2005/entry.php?film=62.) I think the film makes a more powerful statement if its viewed as an attack on spirituality: child = the unexamined life = faith.