The emotive topic of paedophilia gets a cool headed examination from the relatively unexplored point of view of the paedophile in Daniel’s World. The result is likely to trigger plenty of post-film debate and have viewers examining their own moral standards.
Daniel is a 25-year old literature student whose autobiographical work details the day to day struggles of dealing with his much stigmatised sexual orientation.
In the opening scenes we see him being tested by a sexologist, the results of which confirm that he is attracted to pre-teenage boys. With no intention of putting his desires into practise, the virginal Daniel spends much of the time telling us and his friends that he has learnt to lead a fulfilling life that he knows will contain no sexual activity, no life partner and no family. Yet despite his declarations, the reality is his days are spent longing to see the 6-year old son of a friend that he is in love with whom he seldom gets the chance to see.
Daniel draws support and some much needed empathy from a group of similarly non-practising paedophiles. His scenes with them will likely prove the most discomforting for some viewers, as they admire children from afar, either playing in a park, or in videos and photos. They talk about their ‘sweeties’, children they know that they are attracted to.
Director Veronika Lišková takes an unobtrusive approach to her subject, never passing judgement. With her we become a fly on the wall, observing Daniel’s crusade to come out and be accepted by his friends and society in general.
This low key approach works well sometimes. A scene in which Daniel appeals to the organiser of the local pride rally to have a group of pedophiles be included in the march is particularly fascinating. You can almost hear the cogs whirring in the official’s mind as he evaluates the proposed scenario. Other times, such as when Daniels visits his mother, the banality of the scene takes all the momentum out of the film.
Daniel himself isn’t the most engaging of subjects. Hiding behind a drape of long hair for much of the film, his meekness belies his convictions. Stepping into his world is an unsettling experience, but a valuable one to better understand the conflicts inherent in possessing congenital desires that can’t be acted on.
Lišková’s avoidance to sensationalise the material is admirable but regrettably there’s also a lack of a dramatic arc. Daniel’s World remains a provocative conversation starter, but doesn’t dig deeply enough to truly hook the audience.
Daniel’s World is currently screening at the Czech and Slovak Film Festival.
Richard Leathem @dickiegee