Life of Babies Part 1 & 2
by Bernard George,
Icarus Films, Brooklyn,
Video, 2 x 43 mins. col.
Sales: Video-DVD, US
$440; rental: video, US $125
Reviewed by Kathryn
Does learning start
before we are born? Will the newborn remember
his time in the womb? Does the foetus
hear sounds from the outside world and
will he remember them as familiar sounds
outside the womb? Is there a psychological
link between the foetus and the mother?
This fascinating two-part documentary
by Bernard George answers these questions
and gives scientific credence to any mother
who has intuitively felt a connection
with her unborn child.
"The foetal sensorial
experience is a starry night in midsummer.
Everything is sparkling".
The Secret Life
filmed in France, Canada, and the U.S,
has leading cognitive and developmental
psychologists revealing what they have
learned about the human foetus through
contemporary research. Their findings
about the unborn childs innate capacity
to learn and memorise are monumental.
Information about how the human brain
is wired at birth is intriguing
and gives clues on how we learn language
and organise our perceptions. The passionate
researchers are clearly in awe of the
power of the unborn child, who can recognise
subtle changes in the amniotic fluid around
them, distinguish between familiar and
unfamiliar sounds and voices, and can
use all five senses well before birth.
An important implication
from the research presented in the film
is that the way in which a newborn child
is nurtured is crucial to its ongoing
"When a baby is
born it has all neurons...but they are
not connected to each other...wisdom and
intelligence and humour and all that arises
from how the cells are connected to each
other which happens over the course of
life, well into the teenage years...and
beyond...the new information they pick
up helps organise the brain that is being
than visually stimulating, this documentary
does include some incredible intrauterine
footage. Seeing images of these unborn
babies float around in their amniotic
world, where all their needs are met in
a nanosecond, reminds us of what a jolt
it is for the newborn to leave its
familiar safe haven and be thrust into
this new world of light, gravity, and
missing in the womb, all needs are fulfilled...the
passage of time does not exist. The foetus
is in a world that is unchanging. The
best word to express it is eternity"
No wonder we cry when
we are born!
The documentary follows
parents and their babies taking part in
a wide range of studies and tests in the
months leading up to and the months immediately
following birth. Dads, Mums, bellies and
babies give this documentary heart and
emotion amidst all the monitoring, testing,
assessments, and fact-finding. The birth
scene at the end of Part 1 is particularly
"After birth the
newborn human stops crying within a minute...he
lifts up his eyes and gazes at you with
incredible intensity... If the mother
meets that gaze...and if the father meets
that gaze, it touches them to the very
core. You immediately become a parent
forever. Youll never fail that child".
Its a pity that
such an important film couldnt have
been more visually engaging. A more contemporary
art direction and editing style would
have turned this into superb viewing.
The film has a dated look
about it. The scripty font
chosen for the subtitles gives it an outmoded
feel. Another minor distraction in this
English subtitled version of the film
is the inconsistent positioning of those
subtitles. Their movement from the bottom
to the top of the screen interrupted communication
flow at certain moments during the film.
However, despite these
aesthetic considerations, parents, medical
professionals, and students involved in
neo-natal care will benefit greatly from
seeing this documentary. It quashes old
theories about the human foetus being
an indifferent organism and
provides us with valuable knowledge about
nurturing our young before and after birth.
The questions it poses will require further
research but the information it arms us
with before we plunge headlong into parenthood
will lead to a better understanding of
how to nurture our children, and that
can only be good for our society.