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Celia: Child of Terror (1989)

Celia: Child of Terror is an Australian drama written and directed by Ann Turner and released in 1989. The film is set in the 1950s and revolves around the life of a young girl named Celia Carmichael, played by Rebecca Smart, as she navigates the complexities of her world in post-World War II Australia. The movie explores themes of childhood innocence, fear, and the impact of political and societal turmoil on a child’s perspective.

The story is primarily seen through the eyes of Celia, an imaginative and curious 9-year-old girl living with her family in a suburban neighbourhood. Celia’s world is shaken when her grandmother, with whom she is very close, passes away. After the funeral, Celia envisions a monstrous blue hand of a Hobyah reaching into her bedroom window to grab her! Upon hearing Celia scream, her mother Pat (Mary-Anne Fahey) enters to comfort her. Pat takes Celia to the backyard where the screeching is revealed to be a possum.

As the film develops we view Celia’s parents become preoccupied with the political tensions of the era, including the fear of communism and the anti-communist sentiment that swept across Australia.

Celia’s life takes an unexpected turn as she tries to make sense of the changing world around her. She becomes entangled in her own fantasy world, as well as Murgatroyd her pet rabbit. As she struggles to cope with the fear and paranoia surrounding her, her innocence and imagination become her refuge.

The film delves into various themes, including the loss of innocence, the impact of political ideology on family life, and the resilience of a child’s imagination. It highlights how external events can affect the inner world of a child, leading to a sense of isolation and the need for escapism.

The film received critical acclaim for its portrayal of a child’s perspective in a tumultuous time. It was praised for its cinematography and direction, as well as Rebecca Smart’s performance as Celia. “Celia: Child of Terror” was particularly notable for its ability to capture the emotional turbulence of a young girl in a time of societal upheaval.

In conclusion, “Celia: Child of Terror” is a poignant and thought-provoking film that explores the life of a young girl in post-World War II Australia, as she grapples with the fear and political tensions of the era. The film’s ability to depict these complex themes through the eyes of a child is what makes it a unique and compelling piece of cinema. While not widely known, it remains a notable work in Australian filmmaking, providing a glimpse into the power of imagination and innocence in the face of adversity.

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