Two movies came to mind after watching ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’, directed by Behn Zeitlin, ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ 2009 and ‘Spirited Away’ 2001. The latter what that movie tried to be but came up short in comparison to this, and the former what this movie is in spades. Regardless, both directors, Spike Jonze and Hiyao Miyazaki, would probably greatly appreciate this instant masterpiece. Capturing the world as it happens in a child’s mind is a very delicate and intricate creative process, ‘Where the Wild Things are’ is a solid effort, Miyazaki and Zeitlin just do it far better.
This is one of those films I do not want to divulge anything about the plot beyond the blurb above. I do not want to say anything about it; I just want you to see it yourself. This is the reason we all still go to the movies, to see something completely unexpected and jarring leaving you speechless. However, I will credit and acknowledge the entire cast of unknowns, Dwight Henry as the father and Pamela Harper as a no-nonsense ‘school’ teacher. I will especially credit and praise the lead; a newcomer who is sure to have a long and lengthy career, Quvenzhane Wallis, if she so chooses. She is simply fantastic as the child with the hard-luck life, but faces it with the wide-eyed optimism and single-minded determination only a child could muster.
It is her imagination that is the strongest element in her life, and it guides and molds her on her journey of self and foreign discovery. It all falls into my personal belief that children are much more aware of the world around them than their parents would ever like to believe. An earlier film this year also demonstrated this, Wes Anderson’s Quirky ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ another best of the year candidate. Again I feel this one is stronger than it’s comparison.
So let’s instead talk about the actual film comparison I made, Miyazaki’s Animated classic ‘Spirited Away’. In that one a young girl, Chihiro later Sen, too finds herself in rather unfortunate circumstances, she’s trapped alone in the spirit world because her parents are turned into pigs (It’s a complicated story). At every turn, facets of her character are “tested”, her morals, trust and parental love. And at every turn she proves herself to the spirits of the bathhouse (Hmmm, bathhouse = ‘bathtub’) or is it to herself? In any case, Chihiro is even robbed of her name, her identity, but she never falters.
One of the prime and egregious changes made from the Japanese to english language versions of the film is the last bit of dialogue or lack there of. In the end, Chihiro passes everything thrown at her, her parents are returned back to human and she is allowed to return to the ‘real’ world. In the english version, she gets into the car with her parents and drives away saying “Can we come again to this place some other time?” implying she in fact remembers everything that happened to her during her time in the spirit world. In the Japanese version she gets into the car to drive off and… there is nothing said by her. Does she remembered what occurred? It really does not matter, because she was always ready for the challenges laid before her. Her tasks did not really change her, they merely tested her character, and she passed with flying colors. Again, children are more aware and ready for the world, than their parents would like to believe.
Allow me to share a portion of this particular viewing experience. After the final beautiful perfect shot, some of the audience of course left promptly. Most stayed, stayed to watch the credit sequence all the way through, we wanted to see every name responsible for making this. We all were just in awe of what we had just seen, I have no doubt most went into this as I was; cold. Not knowing or reading much about this little indie, only wanting a diversion for an hour and a half. We got more, ‘Spirited Away’ was the one of best of it’s decade, ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ is the best of it’s decade, thus far.
10/10 (Yep it’s just that good, really in all seriousness SEE this one)