Thu. Jun 13th, 2024

Wes Anderson’s Consistent Style and Themes

While likened to the reliability of the tide, Wes Anderson has consistently presented a series of highly eccentric and stylish films to moviegoers. In these films, we uncover deep emotional currents beneath the use of symmetrical framing, bright color design, and careful attention to detail in both the formal approach and the portrayal of meticulously crafted characters. Anderson’s films always feature characters who have meticulous attention to detail. In his debut film, Bottle Rocket, Owen Wilson’s character, Dignan, devised a complex 75-year plan for his criminal career. The Darjeeling Limited followed three brothers on a journey through India, one of whom obsessively organized their daily travel itinerary. The theme of meticulous characters sacrificing emotional well-being for their persistent organizational skills is a recurring motif in Anderson’s films. Fortunately, Anderson’s films always keep going despite this problem.

Moonrise Kingdom evokes a sense of childhood anticipation, similar to the most delightful form of sustenance. The excitement is not rooted in the specific exploits ostensibly celebrated but rather in the promise of freedom, like a dream to navigate a concrete and mysterious world designed for unsupervised play. Moonrise Kingdom embodies the essence of an adventure film. It exudes a sense of liberty, inquisitiveness, and an unmistakable feeling of pure happiness while recounting the voyage of two adolescent fugitives who have recently transitioned from childhood. These protagonists are fitting heroes, reflecting not so much bewildered innocence but emerging brilliance and a clear sense of purpose.

Plot

The film, co-written by Anderson and Roman Coppola, revolves around a preteen boy and girl whose lives are governed by such impeccable precision that they are desperate to escape together to their beachside retreat, bearing the same name as themselves. Sam Shakusky and Suzy Bishop reside on New Penzance Island, located off the coast of New England, in the year 1965. An orphan, Sam spends his summer at Camp Ivanhoe, where he hones outdoor skills with his friends, the Khaki Scouts of North America, led by the youthful Scout Master Randy Ward, who conducts daily inspections. Suzy feels trapped in her dollhouse-like home, inhabited by three younger brothers and two distant parents, lawyers who sleep in separate beds and engage in mechanical discussions about the day’s court proceedings. Although neither child can adjust well, they met a year earlier during a community performance of Benjamin Britten’s Noye’s Fludde and have since discovered their deep connection as soulmates.

Their adventure unfolds on a New England coastal island, bordered by the ocean and encompassing a wild core. However, it is hindered by social structures and figures of authority, including lawyers, police officers, scout leaders who maintain military-like discipline among their troops, not to mention a visiting representative from a child welfare agency.

As they rendezvous in a deserted meadow at the prescribed time and location, Sam offers Suzy a collection of untamed blossoms, and their expedition is meticulously planned. They embark on their adventure, guided by Sam’s expertise in the wilderness. Sam, wearing thick-framed glasses and a Davy Crockett fur hat, and Suzy, with thick blue eye makeup and Sunday school shoes, enjoy listening to Françoise Hardy on a portable record player, exploring each other’s bodies, and engaging in passionate French kisses. In a characteristic symbolic and humorous twist of Anderson’s film, he pierces her ear with a fishhook and reads to her by the campfire at night. This innocent and charming expedition becomes an act of rebellion and a declaration of love, encapsulating the purity of young love that unites them, securing our emotional investment in their future. As they reach the desired cove to camp, dance, and kiss, the audience becomes reluctant to see this nostalgic moment end.

The Heart of the Story

The anarchy in this story comes from the hearts of two twelve-year-old children who are mature beyond their years and socially awkward, Sam and Suzy. Against all odds, they meet during an amateur performance of Noye’s Fludde and carefully plan their escape to the island’s heart. Their goal is to find a peaceful place of refuge, far from interfering adults’ reach- a dream runaway children shared.

Meanwhile, Suzy’s disappointed local police parents, Captain Sharp and Scout Master Ward with his vengeful scout troop, are pursuing them, initially harboring negative feelings towards Sam. Jason Schwartzman and Harvey Keitel also appear as senior talent scouts. However, the younger scouts are equipped with knives, bows, arrows, and challenging clubs with nails driven into one end, just in case Sam refuses. The children in the film communicate theatrically, resembling characters from one of Max Fischer’s plays, using dramatic dialogue and maintaining direct eye contact while speaking. When Captain Sharp tries to inform Sam’s foster parents, they reveal that Sam is not welcome back, meaning he will be returned to Social Services, represented by a cold bureaucrat named after her position. However, the power of Sam and Suzy’s love eventually wins over even the adult inhabitants of Moonrise Kingdom, who meet the young lovers around two-thirds of the way through the film, initially looking down on them. Eventually, the adults realize that surrendering Sam to Social Services and separating the two reflects unfulfilled aspects of their lives.

The Conflict of Desire for Freedom and Control

The film explores the conflict between Sam and Suzy’s desire to escape the world and the world’s relentless efforts to control them, not out of love but as a reflection of their courageous desire for freedom, independence, and, ultimately, each other’s marriage. Amidst this, other adults, including the local police chief, played by Bruce Willis, and the empathetic scout leader, played by Edward Norton, add sympathy to the narrative, even through their brief interactions. Sam and Suzy occupy the central stage among diverse characters, each contributing essential elements to the story and many undergoing unexpected transformations that enrich the film’s narrative.

This beautifully narrated and profoundly touching story, almost as much as Anderson’s previous work, Fantastic Mr. Fox, explores the fantasy world. The film’s straightforward delivery of dialogue and clever humor never ceases to entertain, while its unique 1960s-inspired visual elements set it apart in the director’s portfolio. Anderson’s films consistently exhibit a deliberate production quality, with calculated camera movements and artificial designs reminiscent of Eric Chase Anderson’s delicate paintings. In this case, these characteristics infuse the story with a certain charm reminiscent of a storybook, and at times, Anderson evokes the atmosphere of The Night of the Hunter, especially in the church scenes during the hurricane-driven climax, as narrated by Bob Balaban. Every corner of the frame is filled with captivating details, from the costumes created by Kasia Walicka-Maimone to the sets designed by Adam Stockhausen and Kris Moran. Collaborating with cinematographer Robert Yeoman for the sixth time, Anderson ensures that every meticulously composed, sepia-toned shot is a work of art. Furthermore, his second collaboration with composer Alexandre Desplat infuses the film with whimsy and irony. Each artist contributes to Anderson’s unique themes and cinematic trademarks, cementing the film’s place in the director’s impressive work.

However, a simple summary like this fails to capture the intricate narrative structures in Anderson’s work, which are as cleverly crafted as Sam and Suzy’s escape plan. The film skillfully employs the manipulation and disarray of maps, schedules, and chronological sequences as the story unfolds. It offers both entertainment and the secretive pleasures of childhood games, with their hideouts, disguises, and coded maps. Anderson’s fixation on enclosed structures mirrors his characters, who confine themselves within constructed worlds, whether the sprawling home of Suzy’s lawyer parents or the frontier stockade serving as the headquarters of the Khaki Scouts of North America.

Anderson’s Evolving Style

Some critics and devoted film enthusiasts have recently argued that Anderson has not evolved as a filmmaker, suggesting he continues creating films with visually distinctive stories about individuals grappling with adolescence. However, it is worth considering that Anderson discovered his unique comedic voice earlier than most directors. While some filmmakers struggle with early missteps and embark on mid-career diversions into eccentricity, Anderson’s voice has remained unparalleled and unwavering from the beginning, thanks to his measured and confident skills behind the camera. He will continue to embrace his established style, as cinema would be much less captivating without more films like Moonrise Kingdom.

In Anderson’s films, all human habitats tend to have grotesque and unnatural qualities, particularly in contrast to the rugged beauty of the inner island’s wooded cliffs and rocky streams. Sam, an outcast disliked by his fellow scouts and rejected by his foster parents, is a camping expert skilled in using maps and compasses. As he crosses a field in a coonskin cap while the mournful ballad of the lovelorn wooden Indian Kaw-Liga, sung by Hank Williams, plays in the background, he appears to embody the values reminiscent of figures like Fess Parker’s The Ballad of Davy Crockett, albeit arriving too late to fit into that mold.

Suzy, who alternates between immersing herself in young adult novels featuring magical orphans and erupting in sudden anger towards her parents and classmates, carries the modern world through a portable record player and a single Hardy recording.

Sam and Suzy are shaping the world as they progress, step by step, word by word, and gesture by gesture. Anderson’s departure from naturalism in this context becomes the most convincingly natural way to portray the love story he has imagined. The stylized way his characters communicate with each other, which some viewers may have found overly affected, seems more fitting than ever as the shared language for alienated twelve-year-olds who, in addition to everything else, must invent a means of communication between themselves. Each of them brings a degree of specialized knowledge and a collection of cherished childhood items to this process, and the meticulous care they invest in these exchanges reflects their deep connection.

A Scene of Tender Intelligence

Their hesitant waltz beside the cove, accompanied by the tunes of the portable record player, is infused with a delicate and poignant grace, made even more moving by its place within a comedy, occasionally somewhat playful. The exuberance of the film’s climax, featuring sieges, rescues, lightning strikes, and flash floods, provides relief to what would otherwise be an almost overwhelmingly poignant portrayal of the most fragile aspect of youthful experiences: not so much the loss of that overused notion of “innocence,” which is a common theme in modern American culture, but rather the emergence of the initial brilliance of mature intelligence in a world that may be indifferent or hostile to it—an intelligence capable of conceiving everything but realizing only a tiny fraction of it.

Anderson’s profound respect for his young characters forms the core of Moonrise Kingdom, a film that navigates material that, in different hands, might have descended into sentimentalism. However, the central theme of the film is charting a path. Sam earns his coonskin cap by transforming the island’s creeks and forests into a heroic landscape. The inevitable question is what kind of world or life he could be preparing for. There is no real-world counterpart, just as there is not for the worlds, Suzy reads about in her cherished fantasy novels. The books and cover art are creations made explicitly for the film, much like many objects in Anderson’s body of work. He desires, with Jacques Tati and a select few contemporaries, to construct everything from the ground up, even the most mundane objects.

Bibliography

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