directed by Benh Zeitlin
I love me a good allegory, and Benh Zeitlin’s debut feature is as stunning an example of a modern allegory as you will find. Set in a fictional region of Louisiana named The Bathtub, Beasts of the Southern Wild might as well be set “once upon a time, in a land far, far away,” where nature co-mingles with the slim trappings of modernity in a nearly seamless, organic tapestry of existence for The Bathtub’s denizens. In his main character, Zeitlin has found a true talent in Quvenzhané Wallis, who plays Hushpuppy with enough grit and temerity to split stone. I am jumping on the Wallis bandwagon (there’s room enough here for you too, Academy), for she was a true marvel as the Vardaman Bundren-esque soul around which the calamities, mysteries and misfortunes of world orbit. To say the film is surreal, or even magically real, is to discount the very true to life bulk of the tale. Bandying those terms about can imply a certain type of filmic weirdness that makes some people uncomfortable. Those surreal elements do exist in this film (the aurochs exodus, pour example), but think Gabriel Garcia Marquez, not David Lynch. Rookie cinematographer Ben Richardson is triumphantly fantastic in managing to make each place in The Bathtub (and beyond) come alive and to remain in my mind long after I left the theater. The inevitable comparison to David Gordon Green’s phenomenal George Washington may draw a certain type of interest to the film, and just like George Washington, the beauty of Beasts is its ability to articulate truths that are cosmically universal and to give them to us like a kind of gift. Beasts is big old thing of a film, a precious thing, and it would be a shame if you didn’t experience it for yourself.