“When it all goes quiet behind my eyes, I see everything that made me flying around in invisible pieces.”
Beasts of the Southern Wild is a movie, yes, but it is more than that. It breaks your heart a thousand times and then sews it together with shimmery yet fiercely strong threads of poetry and pain. It is real and it is unreal, harsh and raw and sweet and tender.
Sundance. Cannes. I’d heard about the movie—an article here and there, an interview with the Director—yet still I thought I’d wait to see it, let the buzz subside. Too many times I’ve leapt too soon and been disappointed. For this reason I sent off my two girls plus one to see it the other night without me. They came home all starry eyed, full of you have to see it’s, which I believed for their sincerity but they say the same about some Desperate Housewives episodes…go figure.
The next morning my littlest one made her way down the stairs and crawled atop me for a cuddle, her eyes still dreamy with sleep. Tell me about the movie, I whispered, still a bit guilty that perhaps I should not have let her go…she’s still in single digits and I wasn’t sure what exactly she’d seen.
There’s a little girl named Hushpuppy, she began, and then told me the story through her own eyes, punctuated by long pauses during which I could just see her memory processing, her imagination swirling. And then, she said, And then…
Now that I’ve seen it (thanks to my friend for luring me away) I realize how curious it was to hear of the plot via the eyes of a child when the movie itself is told through the eyes of another, the sweetly defiant, tender and fierce main character. In both the film and its recounting, what is real and what is not is layered and woven in ways that only exist in the minds of children and in the dreams of those who’ve lost that way of seeing.
The film makes children of us all. The mama’s hips sway and the water boils as she passes by. The waters rise and the aurochs roam the flooded swamps. The beasts are real. So are the starry fireworks and the stench of dead animals and the swirling sea of crawfish tossed onto the table.
If only I could capture some of the moments of Beasts—words so poignant your heart aches and visuals of such ineffable power and beauty you want to freeze them forever before your eyes or so painful you want to scratch them from the screen. If only I could capture them I should place them in jars and line them up on my shelf, where they would sit, reminders of how life can be at once so very difficult yet so very full of love and small joys, replete with meaning. How there is magic even in the ugly, tucked within the folds of adversity. How fiercely we love our children and how equally fiercely we must teach them to be strong, to face reality with just the right amount of magic.
“I see that I am a little piece of a big, big universe, and that makes it right.”