Title: Beasts of The Southern Wild
Director: Benh Zeitlin
Cast: Quvenzhane Wallis and Dwight Henry
Creating a world is not an easy feat. And to do so in a low budget way, which can be believable adds to the level of skill in creating that world. It’s extraordinary to think that “Beasts of The Southern Wild” is the first feature from Benh Zeitlin, it has a certain maturity of world view that most filmmaker’s obtain in a lifetime. “Beast of The Southern Wild” is a wonderful movie but the filmmaking can use more worldliness.
Benh Zeitlin’s “Beasts of The Southern Wild” follows the story of father and daughter, Wink (Dwight Hnery) and Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis). They are disenfranchised from what would be called mainstream America, from the part of New Orleans called “the Bath Tub.” The “Bath Tub” is on the water on the other side of the levy and is poor, filthy and a completely fantastical world where rules don’t apply. What is so interesting in “Beast of The Southern Wild” is how it is placed in the universe and why it relates to everything around it.
Hushpuppy is the main character in this film and it really follows her every move and thought. That’s what I found so troubling with “Beast of The Southern Wild” is that everything she experiences is on the surface. What she says is what she feels. I found this to be completely lackluster in a film full of amazing visual oddities. The relationship between her father is abusive but somehow comes from love. She searches for her mother who left the family when Hushpuppy was only a baby and yet, her presence can be felt in every scene.
“Beasts of The Southern Wild” is a display of style, the power of the universe and imagination, but somehow it left me emotionally empty. I couldn’t connect to the characters so well, probably because I was surrounded by this vast world. But as loose as the characters maybe, this is probably the best child acting I’ve seen in a while. So much so, I felt it was natural and believable.
At its very best, “Beasts of The Southern Wild” feels like David Gordon Green’s “George Washington” with hints of Terrence Malick, without the grandure, nuance or meaning. But at its worst, it feels like Harmony Korine’s “Gummo,” a film obsessed on how filthy cinema can be. For me, “Beast of the Southern Wild” is a mixed bag of a film. It’s full textures and visual feelings but in service of what?