“Beasts of the Southern Wild”, now playing at the Manlius Art Cinema, is a vivid, affectionate, often troubling view of an alternative world. Framed in the eyes and voice of a marvelous six-year old, the film examines the lives and times of a small piece of the universe captured in the Louisiana delta. It is remarkable filmmaking for its originality and poignancy.
“Beasts” is less about story than a narrative of time, place, and people. At center is a young girl by name of Hushpuppy (Quvenzhane Wallis) who lives with her father and a small community on the “Bathtub,” a tiny island in the delta. Everything around her is decrepitude — filth, falling down shacks. Yet, there is inviolate love and loyalty not only between father and daughter but within a community that resists all efforts to be mainstreamed.
Communication, all manner of living is both harsh and endearing. Mother is gone, though never forgotten. Father is many times flawed, yet imbues upon daughter a sense of independence, survival, and making do.
While almost documentary-like in its use of hand-held cameras and real-time drama, there are departures from clipped reality. The story is fiction, as it traces the island’s survival after a devastating storm. There is also Hushpuppy’s profound, if childlike, view of getting on with life. We see a wonderful metaphor of huge pre-historic aurochs pounding their way out of the Great Flood and tracking her out of her own flood. She confronts the mythical aurochs and moves on to greater challenges.
This film is often beautiful, sometimes disturbing to watch. At all times, young Miss Wallis is remarkable. She is equally intense, expressive, joyful, and delightful. She is this movie and she is well worth the price of admission.
Jim Wigge is a retired engineer, Cazenovia resident and film-aficionado, who reviews movies for the Cazenovia Republican. He can be reached through the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.