Tuesday, 30 October 2012

REVIEW - BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD


Isn't it a delight to see a film such as Beasts of the Southern Wild, in which every image, every line of dialogue, every sound, every idea has been so cherished by the filmmakers? Appropriately wild in spirit, but tame enough to ensure that a mainstream appreciation remains a viable possibility, Benh Zeitlin's debut feature length film is so full of exuberance that it leaves viewers without even the smallest opportunity to come up for air. It's akin to a cinematic assault, only closer in effect to a bear hug, a particularly colourful, zesty bear hug. No need to come up for air anyway, as this is a brilliant breeze of a film. Zeitlin steeps his film in its setting, flooded New Orleans on the wrong side of the levee, and also in the mind of his protagonist, Hushpuppy, a determined young girl, who sears herself onto her surroundings, and is so strong a force of natural authority that it seems like a terrible affront to nature when she is told what to do by her unstable father. The way in which life for Hushpuppy is so clearly presented from her perspective as a child is marvellous - a child's view of the world is one of both befuddlement (her father's ailment goes unexplained, we learn of it as she does, and thereby also learn of how the specifics of it are much less significant than we adults might insist) and a warped understanding - everything has a purpose, even if that purpose for Hushpuppy is not as it had been intended (her innovative cooking method is a very literal example, and very funny too). This joyous film is beautifully constructed, and complete in its vision. If it is a little stagey on occasions, there's a coarse naturalism that fights against this, and the tension created in the process feels unique and original. Performances are very good, cinematography is creative and satisfying, the score and sound design are lovely.