Mark Orton reviews Beasts of the Southern Wild
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Director: Benh Zeitlin
Cast: Quvenzhané Wallis, Dwight Henry, Levy Easterly, Lowell
Landes, Pamela Harper, Gina Montana, Amber Henry, Jonshel
Set in the southern Louisiana swamp lands, on a small island
on the wrong side of a levee, Beasts of the Southern
Wild is a brilliant rumination on community,
industrialisation, natural disaster and climate change.
Written and directed by Benh Zeitlin, it is an insanely
ambitious project for someone making a first feature.
Told through the eyes of 6-year-old Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané
Wallis), Zeitlin's dream-like cinematography is balanced by a
camera that captures the harsh realism of a group of
alcohol-soaked water rats struggling to keep their heads
Skulking about trying to avoid the hot-tempered outbursts of
her sick father Wink (Dwight Henry), Hushpuppy's world is
turned upside down when a storm detroys their home.
Inspired by the reality of isolated fishing communities under
threat from rising sea levels, the residents resist being
forced into emergency shelters and attack the source of their
distress, the levee.
Meanwhile, intercut within the images of waterborne
destitution, a rampaging horde of prehistoric cattle, known
as Auroch, leave their Arctic home and take to the sea.
The performances are so fresh and unfettered with any filmic
awareness, that they are a perfect counterpoint to the
hallucinogenic dream-like sequences that hold the whole thing
together ... mostly.
Best thing: Quvenzhane Wallis' performance. It's
little wonder Zeitlin altered his script to make Hushpuppy
his central character.
Worst thing: Certain moments of ambiguity that looked
great, but should have stayed on thecutting-room floor.
See it with: Some patience, an open mind and a desire
to be transported.