Daniel Tovar on "William" by Lillie West

In “William,” Lillie West poses adult questions to her six-year-old brother. "What is your occupation?," "What are your passions?," "What is your greatest fear?," etc. The responses are predictably naïve, ranging from gurgling sounds, to statements of incomprehension, to moments of brief enlightenment—as if these questions reveal to William aspects of himself that he has never, heretofore, articulated to himself. The contrast between William's child-like responses and Lillie's high-minded questions is visually marked by a juxtaposition, revisited several times in the video, between shots of William sitting, fielding Lillie's interview questions and William chasing ducks while making spitting sounds.

What this juxtaposition indicates is unclear. Perhaps it is a celebration of the idyllic, pure, blissful, and seemingly non-rational exuberance of the young, untouched by the practical reasoning and reflection that tends to dampen such pure expressions of joy. Or perhaps William’s exuberance is an illustration of the morass of animal desires that—rather than being dampened—still underlie our seemingly rational, practically minded actions. They are the desires that form the basis of our psychologies, motivate our movements throughout the world, and ultimately determine the direction of our lives. Seen in this latter light, we adults do not take control of our lives by reasoning about our desires, rationally directing ourselves toward more informed goals. Rather, reason merely does the work of articulating the the goals that our childish desires have already chosen for us. Reason is slave to desire, and as such, we are still subservient to those base desires we thought we outgrew years ago.

Originally published in Video! Video! Zine