Beasts of the Southern Wild

Such an odd, fantastical movie to be an Oscar nominee — but it absolutely deserved the honor.

In this film, the setting is a character. It’s the humid, aptly-named “Bathtub”, a semi-forgotten or purposely-ignored land isolated by a levee. The city seen in the distance must be New Orleans, but it might as well be Hong Kong for the impact it has on the lives of the Bathtub’s residents.

The place is at the nexus of the old consumerist world and the oncoming threat of rising waters and extreme weather. It cultures an isolated society with its own standards and its own mythologies. It also holds the castoff trash of modern urban society, which the residents use as they can for what they need to live.

One of the most fascinating parts of this film was the reaction of the Bathtub residents to being rescued by the mainlanders after the big storm. They didn’t see it as rescue at all — instead they saw it as imprisonment in an alien place. The Bathtub is a more organic place, closer to the elements and separated from modern convenience and political correctness.

Hushpuppy is a girl who is not raised by her father so much as grows on her own. She is fierce and resourceful, raised on a mix of survival lessons and dreamlike end-time stories. The young actress who played this part, Quvenzhane Wallis, did an amazing job. Her portrayal was honest and real. I also liked the performance of Dwight Henry, who played Hushpuppy’s father.

I won’t pretend to understand all of this movie, but it has stuck with me as I try to puzzle out its images. The film is full of fantasy and some magical realism, punctuated by visions of the ancient aurochs who race across the land as harbingers of destruction while they also signal the change between the ages.

A really interesting film — food for thought!

Here’s a link to the movie’s web page.