Watching the last scenes of "Beasts of the Southern Wild" last night via a rented DVD, I was almost moved to tears.
When the closing credits came on I turned to my wife and said, "Wow. That was one of the best movies I've ever seen. So inspiring. So meaningful." She replied, "I didn't like it very much. Depressing. A downer."
Each to his or her own. Me, I'm recommending the movie highly. See it.
Decide for yourself how this amazing tale of a wise six year old, Hushpuppy, in a bayou town called The Bathtub speaks to you. Here's a few You Tube videos to whet your appetite. Or maybe make you feel, not my taste.
The video below provides an overview of what the movie is about. It's got one of my favorite scenes. Hushpuppy is left alone by her father. No problem. She knows how to cook. And how to light the gas stove.
In an unconventional way. A way that will make overprotective parents cringe.
This next video shows Hushpuppy, her father, and other denizens of The Bathtub before a devastating storm hits the area. They're preparing by... partying. Drinking and fireworking up, well, a storm. Beautiful. They are some of the "beasts" denoted by the movie title.
Aurochs are the more authentically obvious beasts. Very realistic in the movie. Didn't know they were actually enlarged little pigs, dressed up in auroch costumes. They represent power. Our power. Nature's power. Life's power.
Like I said, "Beasts of the Southern Wild" speaks to different people in different ways. It's sort of a rorschach test of how we look upon the world.
Meaning, how you respond to the movie probably says quite a bit about your attitude toward wildness, dysfunction, chaos, rules, emotionality, self-reliance, self-expression, and a whole lot more.
I wouldn't want to live in the actual world Hushpuppy inhabits. I'm too attached to my civilized comforts. No sign of a computer, cell phone, or wi-fi in The Bathtub.
Also, pleasingly, no sign of organized (or even unorganized) religion, aside from a brief image of a cross in the midst of the wild drunken pre-storm fireworks celebration.
This is a story of people. Very human people. Flawed people.
People who laugh, cry, eat sloppily, drink alcohol a lot, care about each other a lot, live life a lot.
More than restrained, cultured, educated, "civilized" people divorced from nature, divorced from authentic feelings, divorced from the ever-present reality of shit happening for no reason other than that it does, unable to apppreciate the strong aurochian wisdom of the movie's oft-repeated mantra uttered after things go wrong, which I remember as "No crying! No pussies!"
Yet in the end, there is crying. But still no pussies (wimps).
Strength: its a virtue. Especially when it springs from an embrace of our place in the natural world.
Life always goes on. The world always goes on. With us. Without us. Hushpuppy and her father understand this. They are wild beasts who haven't been tamed by civilization's attempts to look away from the fierce creatures and uncontrollable events always lurking within and without us.
I had a pretty problematic childhood, or rather teenhood. I suppose my mother (she was divorced; it was just me and her living together) always was an alcoholic. But her drinking became much more of a problem in my high school years.
So I could relate to the seemingly dysfunctional relationship between Hushpuppy and her hard-drinking father. I said "seemingly" because she hated him and she loved him. He was the best thing in her life and the worst thing in her life.
Cliche alert: what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. I got stronger from having to cope with my mother's weirdness. Even with a pillow over my head, I couldn't blank out the drunken voice that came from her bedroom next to mine, saying stuff that I didn't want to hear.
Back then I didn't believe in God, just as I don't now. But I still prayed -- for a normal life, a normal mother, maybe even a normal father coming into my life, if God was so inclined. Didn't happen. At least, not in the way that I envisioned.
What happened was even better. I bent but I didn't break. I felt like I was on the edge of losing it (whatever "it" was), but I never did. I found strength inside myself that would have gone undiscovered if I hadn't been forced to dig so deep for a self-reliant place to stand.
Like Hushpuppy. Sort of. Just not to the same degree.
She is way beyond me when it comes to strength, fortitude, bravery. (Hard to compare myself with a fictional person, of course.) Still, my life experiences probably help explain why I found this movie so moving.
In the end, which comes to all of us, I held my mother's comatose hand as she died after suffering a serious stroke. She was the best mother that she could be, and I was the best son that I could be. Life doesn't get any better than that.
Here's some quotes from "Beasts of the Southern Wild." More wisdom here than in any holy book, for sure.
Hushpuppy: I see that I am a little piece of a big, big universe, and that makes it right.
Hushpuppy: Everybody loses the thing that made them. It's even how it's supposed to be in nature. The brave men stay and watch it happen, they don't run.
Hushpuppy: Strong animals know when your hearts are weak.
Hushpuppy: The whole universe depends on everything fitting together just right. If one piece busts, even the smallest piece... the entire universe will get busted.
Hushpuppy: They think we're all gonna drown down here. But we ain't going nowhere.