The Beasts

In these days of mighty CGI (Computer-Generated Imagery) and 3D and IMAX and stadium sized theaters and all of the other efforts to bring people into the cinema it’s remarkable to see a movie that makes us rethink the way we see movies and the role of art itself.

All movies are to some extent fairytales in the ways they relate to what we know as the ‘real’ world. Even documentaries are fairytales in the sense that they capture events within the mythic frame of the camera lens and organize them into narratives designed to capture our hearts and minds.

Since the invention of the camera we have used the images captured and purposefully arranged by storytellers to make sense of our world. In the age of technology we interpret our lives though the mediation of the lens and the screen.

Technology has reshaped our lives to follow its own designs. We’ve built mighty barriers that separate and protect us from the natural world. The effect has been to divide us from our own bodies and from the body of the earth that sustains us. Living in this disembodied state we suffer from diseases of separation that devastate our environment and drive us insane.

The waters that we have held back are now rising. The time has come for us to re-unite with the sources of our being. The earth itself cries out and sends us signals through our dreams. For those who are ready to listen here is a dream from the soul of the earth.
The Beasts of the Southern Wild sings the power of the body returning. Through our bodies the universe speaks to us and we awaken to our connections with everything there is. In a time when cinema weaves fairytales by the dozen here is a fairytale that brings us closer to the world in which we actually live.

It’s difficult to describe this movie. It isn’t quite like anything else I’ve seen. At times it looks like a roughly cut fable assembled out of fragments of debris washed up by the flood. At times it moves with soul stirring beauty and grace. It offers a heroic and defiant journey that surprises us with magic and miracles at every turn, and yet it never leaves behind the gritty realities of life and death. The whole story swirls about the figure of a six year old girl called Hushpuppy and her father Wink, who live in a place called The Bathtub, where people of all races and ages live in natural harmony with each other and with the world around them. It’s a place outside of the world of machinery we’ve constructed that allows us to rise out of the flowing waters of life and change. In the words of Hushpuppy’s father, “…the most beautiful place in the world.”

When the storm comes and the waters rise the inhabitants of the Bathtub who stay behind are faced with the struggle to survive in a realm that’s been both devastated and poisoned. They are being forced to leave by those who would ‘rescue’ them and write them off as forgotten remnants of a world that is no more. Instead of submitting to the rules of the ‘civilized’ world the people who carry the Bathtub’s soul rise up to resist, and in their resistance summon nature’s most powerful creations to be their allies.
Here is a fable that evokes the world in which we live and the choices each of us will have when faced with the storms that are coming. In a sense this is a prayer for survival and a hymn to the true nature of who and what we are, not apart from anything, able to live and walk in beauty over the earth that is our mother and rejoicing in the magic that gives us the gift of life.

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