I’ve noticed that opinions on Where The Wild Things Are tend to be split down the middle. One side thinking that the movie was a waste of time (ala http://ow.ly/vgia), and the other enjoying the subtle visual cues, and emotional sound tracks. I’ve talked with people on both sides, but here is my take:
Growing up, having been shown Where The Wild Things Are as a child, I had fond memories of the pictures. I don’t particularly remember any story, or plot. It just was something to be grasped symbolically. I know there were words, but that didn’t seem to be the focus of the book. The pictures were huge, detailed, and imaginative. I got the story without listening, and that is probably because I have a terrible audio memory – my visual memory on the other hand is spot on.
So what does this have to do with the movie adaptation? I think that people’s orientations (visual/audio/hands on) to learning severely affect the experience of this movie. The movie should not be compared to other films that emphasize equal bearing on plot, dialogue, visual effects, and musical score. This movie is rather, a work of art, telling a story through the images – and in the process, scaring children and emotionalizing adults. My confession is that I left the theater emotionally affected. As I remembered certain scenes, and images tagged to dialogueless moments, or times when only wailing and thumping drove the film – I had to hold my composure. The images brought me back to a time when I thumped through the woods of New Hampshire. I remember picking up sticks and whacking trees and ferns. I remember being frustrated so I took it outdoors so my civilized home would not be destroyed in the chaos that could ensue with young raw emotion tied to an undisciplined body.
I think that ends up being a problem for viewers who are trying to critique the film based on any sort of criteria and wishing to disseminate that information to the masses. This can be presented that way, but it misses the point. This movie is meant for the individual, and it will either hit nor not hit us – as persons. A person being a collection of experiences (in other words – an identity), which connects with the piece of art and reinterprets it themselves. Unfortunately, our epic adventure flicks, and fantasy adventures are more likely to take us away from our experience and transport us beyond ourselves as we imagine something bigger than our own lives – but WTWT’s is a different kind of film. It is deeply psychological, it is deeply symbolic, and its churning and flow grow up from who we are. The viewer is forced to deal with their self, emotionally, and grapple with their childhood, with its ups and downs, and really big downs. This can be a strange experience for people who merely wanted to “get away” or “escape”.
SPOILERS (SKIP TO CONCLUSION IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN FILM)
There was a moment in the film that really hit me philosophically as well, and it was communicated not by words, because the characters didn’t have the vocabulary to communicate what they were building. There was a time in the film where Max sends the Wild Things on a building campaign (as King, much like Solomon, or Xerxes, or Peter the Great). It is illogical and is in defense of imagined enemies (though there are no real enemies but themselves where the wild things live), they build a massive fort. This building campaign unites them – they are doing this for their mutual benefit. They know that they will be happy when they have a good defensible garrison with a secret entryway and the monsters can all sleep together in the same “pile” together – a family.
But when the massive structure is complete, the dream falters. Without the busyness, the characters turn on each other. They find that their reality doesn’t match the dream, and their “civilization” begins searching in a terrible identity crisis. This ends in violence and one bird creature loses its arm in a conflict. Eventually Max is dethroned, and leaves to rejoin reality. The imaginary kingdom lays in ruins.
So should you see the movie? I think so. I think your enjoyment or repulsion will tell you a lot about yourself. Be open to the impulses of the film that remind you of your own childhood, or if it wasn’t too long ago – find parallels with who you are now. But leave conceptions of the film until after you have experienced it, so you don’t ruin the visual by comparing the plot to other films. Think of it as a therapy session, where you remember young angst, and the inability to control life. Remember how frustrating it was, and how you dealt with it. And in the end – deal with how You are. The film may not be that important compared to the insights gained in the experience.
Now I’ve gone too deep, but that is my reflection. My wife would not agree with me, that this was a deeper journey, but she enjoyed it as well. I hope you find the film as well as I have.