Beasts of the Southern Wild... I watched it last night and reckon I'll be thinking about this movie for a while. Not least because it plays into the Tatterhood themes of an undervalued girl child who has no mother, but also Joseph Campbell's ideas about the hero's journey (for which there seems little alternative for women in myth. I mean we have the faithful Penelope FFS, Helen, Cassandra, Mary, Hera ... they all seem to be bouncing off what their blokes get up to.)
I've been on a major purge of stuff recently and packed The Hero with a Thousand Faces into an op-shop bound box, only to sigh deeply, shake my head and put it back on my shelves. The hero in Beasts is a child of six, played by force of nature Quvenzhane' Wallis. I've never seen a child actor so loyally ferocious in a role*. Her name is Hush Puppy and her Dad, played by Dwight Henry, is the ubiquitous kinetic and unassembled 'bad dad'.
They live in a fictional multicultural Bayou community in the backwaters of Louisiana called The Bathtub, beset with alligators, climate change and moonshiners. They survive by subsistance - crawfish, catfish, the chickens and their eggs. The fireworks scene is completely feral and quite joyous. A neighbouring industrial city has erected a levee against them, protecting commerce from the rising waters about to impact upon The Bathtub in what is to be a catastrophic weather event.
The dreamy encounters by the girl children with the lighthouse barge, the floating brothel and finally the aurochs - massive tusked boar-like creatures melted from the glaciers and on the march across a new world tundra - are not to be analysed by a sober reviewer intent on making meaning and I think this is what I love about the film.
'Myth fracking' is a phrase by one folklorist, about our need to curate an allegory from a story. Beasts of the Southern Wild shows, as in the myths, that our longings, personalities, foibles and storylines are all far from perfect. Here's the trailer:
*Anna Paquin in The Piano comes close.