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Beasts of the Southern Wild by Benh Zeitlin

December 27, 2012

The world of a six-years-old child is under attack, her father is going to die, glaciers are melting and her mother went for a swim: how does she react to the reshaping of her life? I remember when I was about that age how my perception of the adult – and/or real – world was so overwhelmed by a lot of information I couldn’t comprehend and that I interpreted it all in a scary and highly imaginative way that – growing up – slowly disappeared, this film explores Hushpuppy’s point of view – heavily influenced by Miss Bathsheba, the highly unusual schoolteacher of this highly unusual film – and I can really relate to her feelings: this is the world created by the mind of a six-years-old and by her perception of the world, a world where she has already lost her mother (Wink – Hushpuppy’s father tells her she she went for a swim, so the little girl is often looking at the sea waiting for her to come back) a world where her father health is declining, a world where every living creature is meat and mighty beasts are asleep in the glaciers and they are ready to retake possession of the Earth.

The setting of the story – the bathtub, an imaginary community of outcasts living in a sort of aquatic wildlife world in the surroundings of New Orleans – is an allegory which allows the viewer to see everything in it, the language of Hushpuppy’s voice-over or even the name of the characters holds a mythical and biblical tone, alas this setting represents the weak part of the film, we are led to believe the people living in the bathtub are outcasts by choice, but what is the reason of their choice? then we have a major contradiction: they use electricity and other commodities from the world they refuse. One of the best features of the community living of the bathtub is their healthy relationship with the cycle of life and death – even at the point of fascination with death – that can be disconcerting for some viewers in a Western World who constantly rejects death (and aging), exorcise it, refuse it as a part of life;  anyway rationalizing is the wrong thing to do with a sensory film like this, enjoy the visual jamboree and for 90 minutes just live in the mind of Hushpuppy, an amazing character brought to life by the amazing Quvenzhané Wallis and a strong debut feature for Benh Zeitlin.

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