Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Movie with Abe: Beasts of the Southern Wild

Beasts of the Southern Wild
Directed by Benh Zeitlin
Released June 27, 2012 / DVD December 4, 2012

There’s simply nothing quite like “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” From its first moments, this independent hit from Fox Searchlight is breathtaking and intoxicating, showcasing its six-year-old protagonist’s unmatchable energy and lust for life. The story of Hushpuppy and her father, Wink, both inhabitants of the Bathtub, cut off from the rest of Louisiana by a levee, is uniquely inspiring and completely captivating, establishing a world in which a child can function as an adult and where positivity trumps reality. “Beasts of the Southern Wild” is easily the most creative and mesmerizing film of the year.

Part of the magic of “Beasts of the Southern Wild” is the talent displayed by actress Quvenzhané Wallis. Just five years old during her audition and now only eight, Wallis is entirely comfortable serving as the lead of a film, narrating its events and spending many of her scenes entirely alone with nature. Hushpuppy describes the wonder of the Bathtub in the film’s opening scene by explaining the confines of the world beyond the levee, where water is less present but nothing is as free and wondrous. As Hushpuppy herself declares, the Bathtub may one day be completely underwater, but she and her father aren’t going anywhere.

Hushpuppy’s spirit is contrasted by that of her father, who often lets his anger get the best of him. He treats Hushpuppy as if she were an adult, chastising and even humiliating her for mistakes that a child twice her age might make, but it’s clear that he still comprehends his role as her protector. When she is unable to sleep during a violent storm, he charges outside and fires a rifle into the sky, defiantly telling the storm that he’s not afraid. He’s hardly a commendable father figure, but, as with this whole film, things just aren’t quite the same in its universe, and he shows that he cares in the only way that he knows how.

The visual wonder of “Beasts of the Southern Wild” is achieved in its shots of the landscape, devastated by storms and sunk under water. The use of sparklers early on in a celebratory scene shines a light on its characters, particularly Hushpuppy, framing her as a curious creature in this fantastical land. The score by Dan Romer and director Behn Zeitlin is marvelous, emphasizing the majesty of Hushpuppy’s world. This is Zeitlin’s first feature film, and he and Wallis should definitely be watched. With this film as their introduction to the world, they can go anywhere.


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