A Window into Life in the Suburbs

"Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these." Luke 12:27 (NIV)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

On Video: Where the Wild Things Are

While watching Where the Wild Things Are, the first thought that came to me was "In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.", a saying often attributed to the Dutch philosopher, Desiderius Erasmus (1466 - 1536).  Considering the nature of the story, I was surprised at how much I did like the film, when the original picture book was an essay in minimalism.

At the centre of the film is a wild thing, Max... an intelligent, imaginative boy who is angry with his family but especially his mother with whom he shares a  special bond. In a moment of unbridled anger, he runs away from home, jumps into a boat and sails to a distant land where he encounters more angry young things -- large furry creatures in search of a leader. In this world, his natural intelligence and charisma allows him to take charge. For a short time, he enjoys the new found adoration but gradually as the group splinters he comes to the realisation that he cannot give them the stability that they need. He, too, is a lost soul, with his own needs. Deep down his pines for his mother's affection and wisdom.

The film moves slowly... short-lived happiness and then tempers fray. There is a strong sense that Max is just a child at heart despite his initial show of bravado. If there's a problem with this film it is that the wild things aren't really that wild... just desperately tortured, directionless souls. Giving them names and personalities works in the film's favour and against it. There's too much angst for the adventure to be simply enjoyable.

I like the fact that Max feels like a real child. It seems to be the fashion in recent years to portray children as mini-adults and parents as adolescents stuck in time while their bodies age.
My 9 year old who was 8 years old at the time, seemed to enjoy it. She surprised me by her rather sensitive analysis of the film. I shouldn't really... she's a very sensitive sort of child.
"What did you like about the film?"
"At the end... when he went home to his mummy... I think the monsters missed him. I felt sorry for the monsters."

I don't know if it's a film for small children but then I'm not sure if it's really a film for children at all. There is an underlying sense that one is looking with adult lenses into a child's world.

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