Thu 14 Feb 2013
Beasts of the Southern Wild is a very different kind of movie. I am actually quite pleasantly surprised that it got four Awards nominations, but I do not believe that it holds serious chances of wining any because it’s too much out of the beaten tack and the regular taste that dominates mainstream American cinema. I would be happy to be proven wrong in my predictions in this case.
The story is apparently simple but it’s not so easy to tell. A small and poor community lives a life in isolation in the Southern extremity of Louisiana. Life is tough and on the edge, but people seem to be happy coping with the elements and getting the best of the little they have. Among them a six-year girl everybody calls Hushpuppy (maybe this is her name, but it does not matter) her world is marked by poverty but also by the thirst of knowledge and understanding of a smart kid, of the longing for her mother who left or maybe died but is present permanently in her thoughts and a confrontation with her father who at first sight seems to be only violent and abusing, but who we learn (and she learns) eventually that is running a race destined to be lost against malady and death. Overall this mini-universe is under a larger global threat – and this is where reality (ecological threat, meteorological phenomena reminding hurricane Katrina) meets with political messages (the area is neglected, when waters start to rise it is abandoned and left to be flooded in order to protect mainland) and with the fantastic dimension – huge mythical animals are permanent threat, breaking the barriers of the dreams, actually nightmares world and intruding into the real world – or what may or may not be the real world.
It does count and tremendously help the film the fact that the actors are not professional. A face like Dwight Henry‘s is not easy to find, he succeeds to be at the same time anonymous and expressive as a Hollywood star, he passes emotion but the emotions are genuine, he suffers and disturbs, mixing brutality and tenderness. Quvenzhané Wallis is another very young actress who reminds everybody that best female acting happens before they are nine. Documentary realism mixes with computerized fantastic cinematography, Kusturica meets Tarkovsky (the one who made Stalker) and all in the fogs, fumes and waters of the Louisiana swamps. A strange, different, beautiful film that deserves all the awards that it will not get.