The City of Lost Children

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The City of Lost Children
City of lost children french movie poster.jpg
French release poster
Directed by Marc Caro
Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Produced by Félicie Dutertre
Written by Gilles Adrien
Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Starring Ron Perlman
Daniel Emilfork
Judith Vittet
Jean-Claude Dreyfus
Dominique Pinon
Music by Angelo Badalamenti
Cinematography Eric Caro
Philippe LeSourd
Darius Khondji
Edited by Ailo August
Herve Shneid
Distributed by Union Générale Cinématographique (France)
Concorde-Castle Rock/Turner (Germany)
Sony Pictures Classics (US)
Release dates
  • May 1995 (1995-05) (Cannes)
  • 17 May 1995 (1995-05-17) (France)
  • 17 August 1995 (1995-08-17) (Germany)
Running time
112 minutes[1]
Country France
Language French
Budget $18 million[2]
Box office $1,738,611[2]

The City of Lost Children (French: La cité des enfants perdus) is a 1995 French-German-Spanish science fantasy drama film directed by Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet and starring Ron Perlman. The film is stylistically related to the previous and subsequent Jeunet films, Delicatessen and Amélie.[3] The music score was composed by Angelo Badalamenti. It was entered into the 1995 Cannes Film Festival.[4]


From an ocean rig, a demented scientist, Krank (Daniel Emilfork), kidnaps children from the nearby, unnamed port city to steal their dreams, as he is incapable of having dreams of his own. Among them is the adopted little brother, Denree (Joseph Lucien), of carnival strongman and former whaler One (Ron Perlman), who sets out to rescue him with the help of a little girl named Miette (Judith Vittet), a member of a thieves' guild composed entirely of orphaned children. They delve into the world of a bio-mechanical kidnapping cult and discover the connection between the scientist and the missing Denree.

Krank is both aided and hindered by his "family" - Martha (Mireille Mossé), a woman with dwarfism; "uncle" Irvin (the voice of Jean-Louis Trintignant), a talkative brain in a tank; and six narcoleptic, identical clones, his "brothers" (all played by Dominique Pinon). All of them were created by a bioengineering genius, who is conspicuously absent; Martha to be his wife, Irvin for intellectual company, the clones to be his brothers (and manual labour), and Krank to be his masterpiece. There is considerable argument amongst the clones as to who was the first one, the "Original." They support themselves by supplying prosthetic eyes and ears to the cult which, the cult believes, give them the ability to see past an illusory world to a deeper reality. In return, the cult abducts children to be subjects for Krank's experiments. Krank is a genius but lacks the ability to dream, without which he is aging rapidly, so he uses a machine to steal children's dreams for himself. However, he does not seem to understand that by kidnapping the children, he frightens them and causes them to have only nightmares, which are worthless to him.

Conjoined twins known as the Octopus (Geneviève Brunet and Odile Mallet) control the thieves' guild, but have become distrustful of Miette; when One accidentally bursts in and shows his strength while they are planning a heist, they hire him to help the children steal a large, heavy safe. The safe is successfully stolen but then lost into the harbour when One is distracted by a sign of Denree's kidnappers; the Octopus then believes Miette has been holding out on them and has deserted to help One. They employ circus performer Marcello (Jean-Claude Dreyfus), who was their former boss and possible captor but is now apparently in their debt, to return One to them, and much to his own distaste he allows Miette to drown while rescuing One from the cult (who have captured Miette and One attempting to rescue Denree, and plan to execute them both by drowning them in the harbour) using a system of mind control involving trained fleas, a special serum, and a music box.

Beneath the waters Miette's last sight is that of a deep sea diver who takes her to his lair beneath the harbour, and catalogues her body. He is revealed to be a delusional, paranoid amnesiac, identical to the clones except older with a beard, who hoards and lives off things that have fallen into the harbour and apparently knows something about the child abductions. An accident revives Miette and, after taking some valuables from the stolen safe (which the diver had also recovered), she leaves the lair and finds One and Marcello both drowning their sorrows in a bar. Upon seeing Miette alive, the remorseful Marcello lets One leave with her. The angered Octopus has a henchman dispose of the Marcello - though he chooses not to, resenting the Octopus' control - and uses the stolen mind control system to turn One against Miette; the smallest of actions has the largest of results in a spectacular chain of events leading to Marcello's revenge and the Octopus' demise instead, and One and Miette are freed to continue searching for Denree.

When a stolen dream escapes the rig, released by Irvin as a plea for help, it plants information in Miette's mind and restores some of the diver's memories, including how he once lived on the rig before he was attacked by Krank and Martha, and thrown into the sea. They all converge on the rig; the diver to destroy it and the duo to rescue Denree. Miette is almost killed by the duplicitous Martha before the diver arrives and shoots the dwarf in the back with a harpoon gun. Later, Miette is forced to enter a dream world to release Denree from the dream extracting machine, whilst the deranged but vengeful diver sets a time-bomb in the rig's laboratory and then straps himself and a large amount of dynamite to the legs of the rig. In the dream world, Miette meets Krank and makes a deal with him to replace Denree as the source of the dream; Krank fears a trap but plays along, believing himself to be in control. Miette then uses her imagination to control the dream and turn it into an infinite loop, destroying Krank's mind. Whilst One and Miette rescue all the children, the lab is destroyed and the diver happens to grab some billowing scientific papers, finally regaining his memory of who he really is – the "Original," the genius who created the rig-dwellers in the first place. He pleads for rescue from his remaining creations as the clones and Irvin row away in one boat, and One, Miette, and the lost children escape in another, just before a sea bird triggers the detonation of the explosives, killing the genius and destroying the rig.



The film holds a 78% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 41 reviews,[5] and a Metascore of 73 on Metacritic.[6]

The film is widely regarded as a steampunk film as the typical stylistic features of arcane machinery are pervasive throughout.[7][8]

Video game[edit]

Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings 60% (PC)[9]
54.50% (PS)[10]
Review scores
Publication Score
AllGame 2/5 stars (PC)[11]
1.5/5 stars (PS)[12]
Edge 4 out of 10 (PS)[13]
Game Informer 5.5 out of 10 (PS)[14]
GamePro 3/5 stars (PS)[15]
GameSpot 4.6 out of 10 (PC)[16]
3.8 out of 10 (PS)[17]
IGN 5 out of 10 (PS)[18]
PC Gamer (US) 48%[19]
PC Zone 84%[20]

A video game based on the film was released in the United States and in parts of Europe for the PC first and then the PlayStation console.[21] So far the PC version holds a score of 60%,[9] while the PlayStation version holds a score of 54.50%,[10] both from GameRankings.


  1. ^ "THE CITY OF LOST CHILDREN (15)". Entertainment Film Distributors. British Board of Film Classification. 14 July 1995. Retrieved 27 September 2013. 
  2. ^ a b The City of Lost Children at Box Office Mojo
  3. ^ Holden, Stephen (December 15, 1995). "The City of Lost Children (1995) FILM REVIEW; Out of the Fever Dreams of a Child". The New York Times. 
  4. ^ "Festival de Cannes: The City of Lost Children". Retrieved 2009-09-04. 
  5. ^ "The City of Lost Children (La Cité des Enfants Perdus) (1995)". Rotten Tomatoes. 
  6. ^ "The City of Lost Children". Metacritic. Retrieved 29 June 2010. 
  7. ^ Cohen, Noam S. (2008). Speculative nostalgias: Metafiction, science fiction and the putative death of the novel. ProQuest. p. 166. ISBN 978-1243560216. 
  8. ^ Klaw, Rick (2008). "The Steam-Driven Time Machine: A Pop Culture Survey". In Jeff VanderMeer. Steampunk. Ann VanderMeer. San Francisco: Tachyon Publications. p. 355. 
  9. ^ a b "The City of Lost Children for PC". GameRankings. Retrieved 2012-10-10. 
  10. ^ a b "The City of Lost Children for PlayStation". GameRankings. Retrieved 2012-10-10. 
  11. ^ House, Michael L. "The City of Lost Children (PC) - Overview". AllGame. Archived from the original on 2014-11-13. Retrieved 2014-12-13. 
  12. ^ House, Michael L. "The City of Lost Children (PS) - Review". AllGame. Archived from the original on 2014-11-13. Retrieved 2014-12-13. 
  13. ^ Edge staff (April 1997). "The City of Lost Children (PS)". Edge (43). 
  14. ^ "The City of Lost Children - PlayStation". Game Informer (48). April 1997. Archived from the original on 1997-10-21. Retrieved 2012-10-10. 
  15. ^ The Rookie. "The City of Lost Children Review". GamePro. Archived from the original on 2005-02-18. Retrieved 2012-10-11. 
  16. ^ Sengstack, Jeff (1997-04-24). "City of Lost Children Review (PC)". GameSpot. Retrieved 2012-10-10. 
  17. ^ Smith, Josh (1997-07-17). "The City of Lost Children Review (PS)". GameSpot. Retrieved 2012-10-10. 
  18. ^ IGN Staff (1997-05-23). "City of Lost Children". IGN. Retrieved 2012-10-11. 
  19. ^ Trotter, William R. (July 1997). "City of Lost Children, The". PC Gamer. Archived from the original on 1999-12-05. Retrieved 2014-10-21. 
  20. ^ "PC Review: The City Of Lost Children". PC Zone. 2001-08-13. Archived from the original on 2007-01-04. Retrieved 2012-10-11. 
  21. ^ "City of Lost Children Video Game". GameFAQs. Retrieved 2007-02-22. 

External links[edit]