Beasts of the Southern Wild – Film Festival 2012

The film festival has – finally – reached our little corner of the global backwater. Sunday night, I went with D and J to see this extraordinary film  Beasts of the Southern Wild.

Hushpuppy and her father Wink look around at the universe ‘busted’; facing their own extinction.

The best word to describe this film is … unique. A visually rich mix of poetic, unsentimental realism and  documentary-style metaphor. I’m not sure any one description can do this film justice, it defies easy classification or summary.  The story is strong,  the characters complex, the location like nothing I have seen before, the music incredible. I loved this film.  It seems everyone agrees this film is superb, but nobody can agree on exactly what it is about. I’ve read a few different takes now; it is a philosophically rich film.

The story is told exclusively from one carefully constructed point-of-view – the six year old Hushpuppy.  As intended, while watching the film I became completely engrossed in the child’s perspective.

My personal take is that Beasts of the Southern Wild is a modern fable on global warming. I love how even the concept of global warming is presented both narratively and visually from Hushpuppy’s point of view. There is nothing scientific, objective or even adult about this perspective. Hushpuppy believes that her actions have ‘busted’ the universe, which she imagines as a collapsing iceberg she has seen in a poster on the wall of her classroom. Frozen in the ice are the ancient aurochs which she imagines are giant pig like creatures, as the ice breaks and floats like ice blocks in water, the aurochs  are released – alive.

The main character Hushpuppy is a wonderful hero that requires a post all of her own. The young actress who plays her is unbelievable. I completely forgot I was watching actors they feel so real.

Beasts of the Southern Wild was filmed in a part of southern Louisiana that like the film’s setting is dying – the dead forests, the water logged land, the ghost towns slowly sinking into the swampy water. This is everything Hushpuppy knows of the world, so it literally feels like the end of everything.  A species, a world, a way of life facing extinction, like the auroch did thousands of years ago, and all that remains are a few sketches on the wall of a cave. This is why we see Hushpuppy obsessively drawing her story.

In a million years, when kids go to school they gonna know once there was a Hushpuppy and she lived with her daddy in the Bathtub.


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