By Cole Evans, Contributor
Movie theaters must have installed feel-o-vision when screening “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” That or Behn Zeitlin, writer/director, has discovered a direct line to people’s hearts. This movie makes you feel with your eyes and ears with an effortless precision that can only be described as magic. With a drop-in-the-bucket budget compared to most movies, it makes you think that the wonder, magic, and mystique conveyed in “Beasts” can be found in your own “Bathtub.”
Set in the swampland of Louisiana, on a fictitious island lovingly called”the Bathtub,” our heroine Hushpuppy (Quvenzhane Wallis) and her father Wink (Dwight Henry) live in a raw, unapologetic, harmony with their surroundings. Their performances make you think this story was their own and they were being filmed in a documentary.
While set in modern times, modern life is sparsely referenced in this movie. Life in “the Bathtub” is a wonderful mash-up of man-made rubbish and trash turned treasure and a primitive oneness with the world around you.
Life is tough for six-year-old Hushpuppy, her mother is absent from her life, her father Wink tries his best to raise her the only way he knows how and her schoolteacher never lets her forget how the waters keep rising and the “beasts” are coming to get her. But like all six-year-olds, she turns the world, however savage it may be, into a fantasy playland. And to his credit, Zeitlin knows just what that world looks like. Wink, who becomes seriously ill, does his best to raise his daughter without a mother. The choice for Wink is simple and nonnegotiable: his daughter will not be raised as a coward but as a girl who is unafraid of the world and the “beasts” around her.
Zeitlin understands a movie is made to compliment a story, not the other way around. The movie doesn’t become more than the story, it enhances it in the most perfect, simple, yet sophisticated way. In a time where movies are hell-bent on making your eyes pop out of your head with visuals and your ears bleed with audio epicness, Beasts allows you to experience magic without having it shoved down your throat.