Australian Council on Children and the Media

Belle and Sebastian

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Not recommended under 9, parental guidance 9-13 (Violence; Disturbing scenes; in French with English subtitles)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Belle and Sebastian
  • a review of Belle and Sebastian completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 1 July 2014.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 9 Not recommended due to violence and disturbing scenes
Children aged 9 to 13 Parental guidance recommended due to violence and disturbing scenes.
Children aged 13 and over OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Belle and Sebastian
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild themes and coarse language
Length 99 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Sebastian (Felix Bossuet) is a six-year-old boy, who lives with his grandfather Cesar (Tcheky Karyo) and his cousin Angelina (Margaux Chatelier) in a small village in the French Alps near the Swiss-French Border during Germany’s occupation of France in 1943. The film opens with Sebastian and his grandfather roaming through the mountain countryside. When Sebastian and Cesar come across the remains of a savaged sheep we learn that a monstrous wild dog referred to as “The Beast” is believed responsible for the deaths of a number of sheep in the district. The beast is number one on the village’s most wanted list with mobs of villagers continuously trying to hunt-down and kill the sheep-killer.

Sebastian spends most of his days exploring the countryside and comes upon ‘The Beast’.  The animal turns out to be far from the wild dog it is believed to be and the pair becoming firm friends. When Sebastian manages to give the dog a bath in a stream his new friend is transformed into a beautiful white Pyrenean Mountain Dog, who Sebastian promptly names Belle because she is so beautiful.

Sebastian keeps his friendship with Belle a secret and does his best to hide her since, although it is obvious to Sebastian that Belle has been wrongly accused of killing sheep, his grandfather and the rest of the villagers are convinced otherwise.

The loss of sheep to wild dogs is not the only problem the villagers have to face because a small army of Nazi soldiers led by the stone faced Lieutenant Peter (Andreas Pietschmann) arrive in the village. The Nazis are after Jewish refugees who have been escaping over the mountain passes into Switzerland and suspect the village doctor, Doctor Guillaume (Dimitri Storoge) of assisting the refugees to escape across the mountain into Switzerland.

When one night, Doctor Guillaume is unable to lead a group of refugees across the mountain, it falls to Sebastian, Angelina and Belle to undertake the perilous mission.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

War and occupation; Nazi soldiers; the French Resistance; dogs killing sheep

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

The film contains violence against animals and people including the depiction of blood, threats of violence and war related themes. Examples include:

  • In one scene a young boy and his grandfather come across the remains of a savaged sheep (the remains are not depicted) and the grandfather tells the young boy that the sheep had been killed by “The Beast” – a wild dog
  • A man with an injured leg (we see blood covering his lower leg) says that the wound was the result of a wild dog attack.   
  • In one scene we hear the sound of a gunshot and then see a wild sheep tumbling from a mountain cliff , bouncing off rocks and falling to the ground below
  • A man sets a large spring trap with jagged jaws in a bid to trap a wild dog.
  • A long line of villagers walks through a meadow, blowing horns and beating drums in a bid to scare a wild dog out of cover. Sebastian leads Belle away from the villagers but a short time later we see a villager aiming his rifle at the dog and shooting her in the back leg. We hear her yelp and see a bloody bullet wound in her hind leg. She limps away as villagers continue shooting and bullets ricochet off rocks without hitting her. Later we see her lying on her side breathing heavily.
  • In several scenes groups of villagers are seen with rifles and shotguns slung over their shoulders, and in one scene we see a six-year-old boy carrying a small rifle.
  • Nazi soldiers drag villagers, including old women, from their houses and into the street and we hear the sounds of women crying and screaming. 
  • A Nazi soldier shoots a deer and Sebastian threatens to throw a rock at him. The soldier grabs him and shakes him but is then attacked by Belle who bites his arm; we see blood covering the soldier’s forearm. Belle runs off with two soldiers firing their rifles at her but she escapes.
  • In a tense scene, Nazi soldiers chase a family of Jewish refugees with Sebastian, Angelina and Belle across snow fields and through a violent snow storm.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under five, including the following:

  • Sebastian is lowered over a mountain cliff face to a ledge below; we see him dangling precariously in mid-air on the rope. The boy rescues a lamb, putting it in his backpack, and is then pulled back up to the top of the cliff.
  • Sebastian is out in the wilderness by himself when he first meets Belle who is wild-looking, large and dirty. She barks, leaps past him, and runs off.  
  • A man accidentally sprains his ankle.  We see his swollen ankle and the man struggling to drag himself through the snow on a sledge.  Belle arrives, grabs hold of rope tied to the front of the sledge and pulls the man to safety.
  • A man is buried under an avalanche of snow and is rescued by Belle, Sebastian and Angelina who dig him out.
  • A group being chased by soldiers are forced to cross over an ice bridge suspended across a deep crevasse.  The ice bridge breaks as Belle crosses and she falls into the crevasse and is lucky to be rescued.
  • One scene depicts several snarling wolves attacking sheep in a barn and chasing them out. Belle confronts the wolves and they run off with no sheep injured.      

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by the above-mentioned scenes

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Children in this group may also be disturbed by some of the above-mentioned scenes and also:

  • Sebastian asks his grandfather what happened to his mother, who the young boy has never seen. The grandfather tells the boy that his mother was a gypsy who he found in the countryside giving birth and that she died after he promised to look after the baby.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Children in this age group are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in this film.

Product placement

Nothing of concern

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • Sebastian makes reference to a man liking women and having a lover.

Nudity and sexual activity

The film contains some occasional low-level sexual activity and mild crude images. Examples include:

  • A young woman bends down wearing a low cut dress and we see a man ogling her exposed cleavage.
  • We see the backs of two Nazi soldiers urinating in front of some trees and see the streams of urine. 
  • One scene depicts a dozen Nazi soldiers having dinner, several women are seated at the dinner table amongst the soldiers, who flirt with them and one soldier nuzzles the neck of one of the women. 

 

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Sebastian’s grandfather, Cesar is depicted on several occasions throughout the film drinking spirits and wine. In a couple of scenes Sebastian’s grandfather he is seen drunk,  staggering and slurring his words, and in one scene we see him passed out face down on a table with an empty bottle lying on the table next to him. Reference is made to Cesar’s abuse of alcohol.
  • One scene depicts Cesar pouring alcohol from the illegal still which he keeps hidden in a shed. He quickly covers the still when someone comes to the shed. 
  • Sebastian steals brandy from his grandfather and uses it to treat a gunshot wound in Belle’s leg. He also gives Belle an injection of antibiotics, thrusting the syringe into the dog’s leg without hesitation.  

Coarse language

The film contains one or two low-level coarse words and name calling. Examples include:

  • bastards; ass; crazy; you’re really bizarre 

In a nutshell

Belle and Sebastian is French film based on a children’s book by Cecile Aubry. It is a heartwarming adventure with attractive main characters – an appealing young boy and beautiful dog - that will appeal to both older children and adults. The film also contains some breathtaking scenery. There are a number of violent, scary and disturbing scenes, so the film is not recommended for under 9s, with parental guidance recommended for 9-13 year olds. The film is in French with English subtitles, so would be difficult for children who are not reading well to follow.

The main message from this movie is:

  • Don’t give up on animals or people who have been abused and seem beyond aid. Love and understanding can, with perseverance, turn around even those who at first seem beyond help.

 Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Empathy and understanding: Throughout the film, Sebastian displays empathy and understanding beyond his years in his care of an abused dog.
  • Perseverance and courage in adversity: Several characters in the film display perseverance through adversity and courage in the manner in which they overcome obstacles (some life threatening) while aiding Jewish refugees to escape across the mountains.   

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