Monday, 14 September 2015

Where the Wild Things Are (2009)

"You're the first king we haven't eaten."

This is a psychologically brilliant and delightfully weird film, as you'd expect from the creative team of Spike Jonze and Dave Eggers. It's an odd commercial proposition at first glance, though; it doesn't seem particularly kid-friendly for a film based on a children's book. Still, apparently it did well. And is, incidentally, brilliant.

The creatures are, primarily at least, based on prosthetics rather than CGI, which is in itself a triumph. And both the direction and the cinematography are both highly accomplished and rather subtle, making this film look, stylistically, a bit like an art house flick.

But the real triumph is the characterisation of the creatures, which is quietly very dark and more than a little Lord of the Flies. None of them are happy. At least one of them, Judith, is clinically depressed. They are childlike, in a way, but the contrast with Max's innocent enthusiasm is stark. They pay a heavy price for their wildness.

Even the island they live on is slowly turning to desert; entropy. This links thematically to the lesson at school, earlier in the film, where Max is taught about how the world will inevitable end. What, then, is the point? 

There's political allegory, too. Max is appointed king on the basis of his imaginative claims, but, inevitably, the reality is that, like all politicians, he governs in prose.

This is an extraordinary and unexpectedly deep film, and well worth seeing. Just don't expect a typical Hollywood kids' film.

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