12/09/2009 07:50:00 pm

Where the Wild Things Are

Posted by Tom French |

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On Sunday Lesley and I went to see Where the Wild Things Are.

I was rather excited about this movie. Mainly because I get excited about Spike Jonze. And I figured Spike Jonze making a film about wild things for kids. That's pretty good.

The film had been delayed for about a year I think. The rumour was that the film was too scary for kids so Warner Bros. wanted the film to be reworked. I don't know if that's true, but a scary kids movie is a good idea.

The thing was though, this isn't really a kid's film. While the book maybe for kids, this film is very grown up. The themes are grown up, the concepts are pretty grown up, the photography is pretty grown up and the direction is pretty grown up. There are often periods of silence. The humour is scarce and when it's there it's pretty adult. This is a kid's film for adults. The film seems to re-examine childhood to portray it not as this great adventure, but as a time of loneliness, rage and fear. A time characterised by the impotence of being small and ignored. The adventure that Max goes through is not really the great, escapist adventure of Mary Poppins or The Wizard of Oz, but a realisation that even when Max escapes, his fantasy world is even more dysfunctional than his real world. Even the utopia where he is king is invaded by insecurity. In both the book and the film the solution is not to escape the world, but to face the relationships that are hard, but are actually underpinned by love.

In the film Max, the main character, runs away from his home, where he feels ignored and unloved by his family, and escapes to world full of wild creatures. These creatures are full of life, dangerous, fun. Max first meets these big, hairy creatures when Carol (played by James Gandolfini from The Sopranos) is smashing up their houses in a rage after he is left by his girlfriend KW. Max barrels in and sides with Carol only to find that he nearly gets himself eaten for taking the wrong side. Only by lying and saying he's a king does he save his life. He then sets out to transform the group to make an ideal community for himself. But things don't work the way Max would like. The wild things are too dysfunctional, too controlled by jealousies and fear to create the community the Max dreams of and things fall apart.

The film is rather depressing in its bleak representation of community. It's a community with little love and what love there is is compromised by fear. The whole time, even when Max is at his happiest, there is the underlying tension that's bred by Max's lies and the danger of wild animals whose natural dispositions seem not towards creation but destruction.

This isn't really a kids film.

But I did like the film very much. I loved having giant, furry animals to tell an adult's story. I loved the design, the photography. The wild things looked flawless, the music was superb. And I liked that this was a film of hope. And a film about engagement. A film that pushes us to see that problems don't get solved by retreating from the world but entering into relationships. We can't build forts to keep the out people we don't like, we build homes where we live in a real pile, with all the messiness and connection that brings with it.

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