Lujain Ibrahim July 7 2018

A Comforting Chimerism


In a few calming and melancholic minutes, Realm of an Inner Child defies the common connotations attached to chimerism like aggression, artificiality, and distance. It tells a sympathetic and relatable story of a mother who finds comfort rather than threat in the word “chimera” where her child who died in utero still lives within her body and connects with her biologically and psychologically as a microchimera. The director Jeannette Louie creates a sense of suspense and confusion at the start of the film that clears up as time progresses and takes an unexpected turn when it introduces a chimera and a mosaic held together by a bond many of us are very familiar with: the bond between a mother and her child.

Realm of an Inner child has a very sedative and cozy spirit to it. This is brought about by many of its characteristics beyond its plot that embrace viewers like its soothing ambient music and voiceover narration. The experience of watching the film becomes even more intimate and invasive with the visuals, most of which are shot inside the house of the mother, the main subject of the film, who appears to be very comfortable and dismissive of the camera’s presence. We can hear her inner thoughts and even sometimes see into her microbiology with some microscopic footage of her and her child’s cells. The camera movements are also very smooth or slowed down, and the film makes use of dissolve transitions between the scenes specially early on in the story. Since the story is intimate and personal, all of these attempts to break down barriers between the viewers and subjects of the film culture an affectionate and responsive ambience for viewers to take in these big ideas of chimeras and mosaics, that are traditionally treated as aggressive or misunderstood threats, in a different context. 

There is a slow build in suspense early on in the film where we hear the mother speak of a loss of an unknown cause. Furthermore, even though we can hear the child and sometimes see parts of him like his legs or his back, we do not get a glimpse of his face until late in the film making it difficult to tell if he really exists in the mother’s world or if he is only imagined. We also understand that the child learns differently as he reveals to his mother that the set of alphabets he is learning happen to be nitrogenous base pairs (like A, T, C, and G) of DNA. In addition to that, the first time we finally see the mother and her child in the same frame, the mother is always facing the other way or is simply not aware of the child’s presence further intensifying the mystery of the child’s physical existence outside the mother’s body. However, as the nature of the relationship of the mother and her child unfolds, we witness this microbiological link unravel and become a rather psychological or real physical link that concludes the film on a beautiful note of motherhood and love.

Jeannette Louie’s Realm of an Inner Child manages to effortlessly draw viewers into a warm and somber yet hopeful world that anchors and challenges some of the aspects of the very intimate and recognizable relationship between a mother and her child. Realm of an Inner Child exceptionally achieves this whilst simultaneously drawing on scientific concepts of chimeras and mosaics that govern and metaphorize the dynamics of this complex relationship.

About the author

Lujain is an undergraduate student studying computer engineering at New York University Abu Dhabi who is particularly invested in engineering applications in the world of biotechnology and biomedicine. She is also interested in exploring science and technology in film as well as the cultural and political significance of cinema.

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