Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
Global Warming in the Bathtub.
In the primitive wetlands of the Delta, amongst the snaking vines and alligators, a small community known as the Bathtub attempt to survive outside the reach of “regular” society, but face destruction from the rising waters – and some pre-historic beasts.
“The entire universe depends on every piece fitting together.”. This is the message from our juvenile narrator, known as Hush Puppy, a six-year-old girl who lives in the Bathtub with her father Wink, and sets the tone for the movie, which exists as an atmospheric fantasy bulging with ulterior meanings.
With a superb opening sequence, Beasts of the Southern Wild greets you with a recklessly chaotic set-piece showing how these primitive, separated villagers live – with flowing fireworks, a carnival-style joviality and dreamlike xylophone music. This upbeat atmosphere soon dissipated though, once the village is flooded, and the survivors attempt to stick to their stubborn solitude. For Hush Puppy, her predicament is deepened with the failing health of her father, whose heart is on the brink of collapse. Wink, in between living on a diet of bugs and beer, has been training HP in the ways of life in order to make her a “warrior”, hardening her, and giving her the skills he thinks she will need to survive the Bathtub – which includes no crying, and sometimes calling her a boy.
A plethora of subtext can be drawn from BOTSW, such as the savagery of predation – how the survival instinct brings out the animalistic traits in us that civilization has hoped to curtail, but can also be our defining moment in terms of our humanity/redemption. This is embodied within Hush Puppy, whose determination and fierceness are equalled by her innocence. Her war cry is no more than a squeal. Other themes include the enduring human spirit, and our personal choices on how to live in this world.
Parts of the film are a little too abstract, which causes the story to lose traction, but the overall journey that Hush Puppy makes is fulfilling and compelling, and the moments of natural comedy (such as our six-year-old hero lighting a stove with a flamethrower) give the film the special touches it needs to keep it refreshing.
A memorable and touching movie.
Beasts of the Southern Wild will be released in the UK on 19th October 2012