Saturday, 16 February 2013

Wild beasts

On the Mississippi delta, there’s a post–Katrina disaster area where levees are so broken that “everything beautiful is gone.” Indie hit Beasts Of The Southern Wild is a picture maintaining legends of a noble primitivism that glorifies political and cultural stagnation. This is Sundance bait with a deeply romanticised ‘plot’ of irrational nonsense. It presents us with a defiant sensibility so keen to stress the importance of feelings, as if logical thought holds no sway or relevance, that overdose on folksy hippie sentimentality seems a likely response to its worst moments of backwoods charm, all seemingly inspired by the worst pretensions of magical realism.

Helicopters pass overhead, appearing as far away as comets, and no more in touch with the plight of the protagonists below their flight path. If taken on face value, this has some marvellous fantasy images but it has all been created in the service of third world survivalism without hope of progress. Being content with less is portrayed here as hardly one step above blissful ignorance. Living in squalid flooded slums with nothing at all worth having is not the ultimate in spiritual freedom, despite this movie’s exploration of bohemian dreams. A compassionate humanity in a perfect kind of balance with feral nature must be far more than just a commune of scavengers (or tribal ‘beasts’), southern or otherwise.