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THE QUIET ONE

USA, 1949 (MIFF 1955)

Director: Sidney Meyers

Acclaimed abroad as a film classic, The Quiet One is an unforgettable drama about an unloved child lost in loneliness, who drifts into delinquency. Powerful in its pathos and poetry, yet documentary in treatment, it is widely acknowledged to be one of the most useful and effective educational films about children ever made.

It tells the story of Donald Peters, an only child of a disrupted home in New York's Harlem. Abandoned by his parents, he grows up without ever experiencing the feeling of being loved or even wanted. He makes no friends, never smiles, hardly ever speaks, and is bewildered by even the everyday school lessons and games of children.

Like many children in similar circumstances, Donald hides his bewilderment and his bitterness within himself. Finally, desperate from loneliness and boredom, he gets into trouble.

At the age of ten he is sent away to a school for delinquent boys in need of psychiatric treatment. There he is exposed to genuine friendships and affection for the first time in his life, but for a long time the counsellors, even under the guidance of a psychiatrist, cannot even begin to penetrate Donald's wall of silence and isolation. Then, mainly through his attachment to one of the counsellors, Donald begins to enter into the school activities.

Two developments threaten to disrupt his rehabilitation. One is his growing jealousy over his favourite counsellor. The other is the discovery that his mother has disappeared.

Her disappearance ends his subconscious hopes for a reconciliation, and the shock sends him into headlong flight. In a railroad tunnel, he narrowly escapes death by clinging to the face of a rock wall while a train roars by. During these fleeting seconds his whole life seems to race through his mind and something suddenly breaks the knot that had bound him to the past. Accepting his new circumstances in a different light, his own spirit begins to come of age.

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