So I went to see Moonrise Kingdom on Saturday. Don’t worry, there will be no spoilers. It’s perhaps the most Wes Anderson of Wes Anderson films. In fact The AV Club asserts that Moonrise Kingdom shows that it is possible for Wes Anderson to make a film that’s too Wes Anderson-y. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the film’s release coincided with Wes Anderson Bingo app. Cross off when you see Children-Like-Adults, Adult-Like-Children, *does a quick google*, Dated Audio Equipment, Symmetrical Framing etcetera, etcetera.
Moonrise Kingdom begins with the now standard Anderson touch of having the main set in the film opened up like a dollhouse. During this long sequence we are introduced to some of the film’s protagonists, but mainly we’re introduced to their quirky world; we see some children’s interest in a Benjamin Britten “learn how an orchestrial piece works” lP played on a portable record player and another ignoring them reading a fantasy book. It is interesting to note that here all the characters are interested in their own pursuits, not at all in interacting with each other.
I’ve read that Anderson has his character’s say what they are actually thinking, rather than what they are expected to say. This leads to some hilariously frank exchanges but, strangely, no one seems insulted by each others frankness. This got me to thinking: there appears to be no small talk or niceties in Wes Anderson’s films. Almost all dialogue is functional and related to a character’s desires. Paradoxically*, for me this is best highlighted during a letter writing exchange between the two young love birds in Moonlight Kingdom – their writing seemed so much mroe fluid and expressive than any of their actual conversations,or indeed any of the other conversations in the film.
A further scene that stuck out for me is when the two be-teenaged leads go hiking and camp. Everything they do and say is focussed on the act of hiking or camping (not that there aren’t little touches of affection) without any unnecessary chatter. I was reminded of the zen proverb that one should avoid any idle talk, which, unfortunately, is usually the only kind of talk I engage in. I almost envied the ability to be in the moment.
Increasingly, it seems every character in a Wes Anderson film, whether authority figurs or not, is capable of bizarre or irrational behaviour. All of them seem to end up being dragged into the plot and none attack the ridiculousness of what may be going on. Whereas in his earlier film, Rushmore, we had a character, Miss Cross , who almost reacted as a real human being would, all his characters now seem to be at the whims of Anderson and his writing partner(s) and just follow where the plot will take them.
Whilst watching , I began to think that Moonrise Kingdom was very much like a film someone with Asperger’s would make. All the characters are absorbed in their own interests; talk is functional and not person centered; all the shots are just-so; everything is very otherwordly. Not that I’m suggesting Anderson has Aperger’s but his films are all internally consistent and Anderson has complete control over all aspects and people say exactly what they mean. These things, along with the dollhouse introduction put me in my mind of someone telling themselves a story in a world, where whilst there’s still injustice, everything makes sense.
I don’t know what I gain from this insight.
It’s nice to visit Anderson’s world every now and again and see how well he plays in his toy box. I think it’s great that he can make major Hollywood movies and wish there were more filmmakers that were as unique and stylised like him. I’m just glad that not every film is exactly like one of his.
*I hate using the term paradoxically but I just felt like it here.