The Power of Detail: Moonrise Kingdom

Wes Anderson films exist solely in what can only be called Wes Anderson world. This whimsical world is filled to the brim with the kind of minute detail that leads the viewer to believe that Anderson has likely been fixated all of his life on his environment. Objects, every single object, in every single scene have been lovingly labored over. The very first time you see a Wes Anderson film it’s immediately clear that what you are seeing has been made by someone who has total and complete control over every aspect of the production. The result is that we the viewer feel like we have been invited into a personal space in his brain where these details individually and collectively mean something to him. His total commitment to making sure a room feels exactly the way he wants it to feel speaks to the power images themselves holds over him.    Through seven feature films he has repeated and built on this careful attention to detail. He has, in turn, received his share of criticism and frustration for essentially playing the same riff over and over. Some feel his artificial worlds are devoid of any genuine emotion; that he keeps the viewer at a distance. Certainly one could look at it this way. But when Anderson is at his best, he delivers a world that we want to be immersed in. There is a kind of magic to the visuals because they work as sense memories. Anderson gives us big, open establishing shots that allow us to see/digest all of the objects in the frame and in turn those objects spark feelings of a time and a place and often they trigger emotion; my Dad had one of those-my Grandmother had clothes like that-I had that kind of flashlight-etc-etc.  Anderson is at once showing us things he has memories of and things he wished he had memories of. It’s a world where the characters have problems that are soothed by environments that are made up of wish fulfilling details: a record player, an old watch, a swatch of fabric.  Moreover, his characters are often engaged in some routine domestic act that has all but disappeared from modern culture. Anderson creates environments and scenarios that represent a world he’d (we’d) rather be.

I don’t like to go into plot summaries because I always skip them myself when I am trying to get a sense of a film I haven’t seen. Unless I am writing extensively about a film (like I did on War of the Worlds) I prefer to give you my impressions as opposed to a blow-by-blow description of the plot. I feel like the best movie going experiences are ones where I walked in knowing very little. So here’s what I am comfortable telling you:

Moonrise Kingdom is a tone poem to adolescence. It contains two major elements: the often awkward, painful and lonely existence of troubled pre-teens and the fantasized escape of that existence. It moves confidently between button-down drollness and quiet melancholy; there is a real sense of inspiration behind this production. It doesn’t deliver the bigger, more complex satisfaction of, say, The Royal Tenenbaums but it feels more intimate and focused. It lingers in the mind and in the senses. A very satisfying world indeed.

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2 Responses to The Power of Detail: Moonrise Kingdom

  1. Tom Sanders says:

    I’m not sure the movie will live up to this vivid review so I will probably miss it…

  2. Generally not a Wes Anderson fan, but this movie has been getting some great reviews. Thanks for sharing yours.

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