The film Beasts of the Southern Wild, directed by Benh Zeitlin, is about a group of people who live off the coast of America and are trapped in the middle of a horrific natural disaster. Hushpuppy, a five-year-old girl, is used in the film to confront this tragedy. The film is based on the Gulf Coast of Louisiana at the onset of Hurricane Katrina. Hushpuppy, a brave young girl, is pitted against natural and man-made disasters and coercion in the film. The film portrays the theme of tension in the oppressed community that dwells in the ‘Bathtub.’ Hushpuppy, the little girl, is the heroine, while the storm and aurochs are the antagonists. The main conflict in the movie is one that is characterized by several relationships that are present all through the film, the main relation being between father and daughter. This conflict between the daughter and father in the film is solved by an unspoken love between them. Their love is most evident in a scene where they are about to part at the close of the film. In the film, Hushpuppy’s father consoles her, ‘Don’t cry’. Literary elements evident in the film are opposition and flashback. Opposition is evident especially when the community in Bathtub is against smoky dystopia on the other side of the levee. We also see the government entourage into Bathtub where it begins to flash out people from their homes. This literal element serves to pass an anti-American message. Another literary element is flashback which occurs when Wink remembers his wife, Hushpuppy’s mother, who swam away. Wink remembers her as a woman so beautiful she could light a stove just by walking past it.
Two scenes that stand out in the movie are when Hushpuppy’s father is teaching her how to fish. Wink uses his bare hands to catch the catfish, and he manages to catch one with barely getting his elbow wet. This scene shows that there exist great love between a daughter and her father. The film was inspired by the conflict between the humble community and external authorities. The authorities imposed their mandate onto the community living at the coastline. The film captures this scene of conflict in a perfect way. The scene is shot in the “Bathtub”, an area that is not civilized since it is separated by a levee. However, the bathtub is lively with natural beauty and bold spirit of its native community. The bold spirit of the inhabitants shows how the marginalized could handle their own issues without interference from external authorities.
Social factors such as climate change play an important role in the film. Throughout Beasts of the Southern Wild, there are hints of the effects of climate change and one message of the film is that distorted social values cause the polar icecaps to melt and begin to collapse, releasing the destructive forces of nature, symbolized by the Aurochs. A lesson from this film that can be applied to life is that the problems facing the society are deep and that they are both ecological and cultural. In life, the film says that there is a decisive clash of two ways of life, one leading to collapse and destruction, and the other leading to renewal and regeneration. It is not so much that the Bathtub needs to be allowed to continue its way of life in insular isolation, it is that such a sane and compassionate way of life must prevail, so that life may prevail. This is the meaning of the ending, in which the community marches forth into the world, waves lapping at their feet, black flags flapping in the wind.
In conclusion, the film improves a viewer’s understanding of historical events. Through the film, one is able to grab a greater understanding of the way through which complicated and unfriendly political histories can lead people to hate institutions that were previously perceived as universal good. The film successfully succeeds in achieving its objectives. The community is able to handle issues that arise from political avenues and moral quandaries. This achievement is visible through the innocent eyes of the protagonist, Hushpuppy. Beast is a refreshing film that can be recommended to viewers.
Benh, Z. (2012). Beasts of the Southern Wild. 20th Century Fox.