Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Moonrise Kingdom and a moment of transcendence

"Black then white are all I see in my infancy
Red and yellow then came to be, reaching out to me, lets me see there is so much more
And beckons me to look through to these infinite possibilities"

- Tool, Lateralus

So, did anyone notice the brilliant couple of seconds at the end of Moonrise Kingdom?
Well, I wish I could link a screenshot of the scene, but we'll have to do with memory. And if you have no memories of this flick, you probably should. It's especially poignant for those of us who were serious children.

Wes Anderson does "awkward" very well. Social dysfunction, frustrated intellect, uncertain ambition - he films stories about persons of worth with all their ridiculous failings, and allows characters to grow past those failings. There's a constant self-conscious analysis throughout his movies. They are stilted and stumbling, just like our decision process as fallible sentients is. Confidence and quick reaction are the the luxury of the self-limited or the naturally thoughtless and these are not the subject of a tale like Moonrise Kingdom.

Generally speaking, I utterly despise "coming of age" stories and in general the condescending attitude we encourage each other to have toward our youth. The few childhood stories which stand out are the ones which see the worth of a trenchant, proactive youthful attitude instead of simply encouraging us to set up our past selves as straw men and wallow in our dignified adult inertia. They are those which do not belittle the concerns of youth, which do not make a mockery and a curse of the word "childish."

Moonrise Kingdom is childish. It is seen through the eyes of an intelligent twelve-year-old, under the absolutist rule of reason bombarded by the world's endless conflicting information. It is shot so as to display the endless struggle to make sense of that data, to form patterns, to create concepts. There is little room for nuance. Speeches are delivered in a monotone, everything is telegraphed, every visual element in every shot is perfectly balanced. Characters pose standing bolt upright or if they bend they do so at right angles. They walk with the surety and poise of toy soldiers. This is how we tell stories to ourselves, and we told ourselves many more stories while we still tried to make sense of the world. We play at living, no matter the age, but we only admit to doing so when we're young.

Yet there is growth in the accumulation of experience. And somewhere there's a tipping point. Somewhere in the growth of every concept, discernment begins to color our experiences, slowly, insidiously infiltrating nuance in speech, imbalance in our image of the world.... slants between the right angles.
And after ninety minutes of characters delivering lines at each other from statue-like perfection of viewpoint, we find the female lead safe and sound, continuing her life, continuing to grow, her awareness expanding. And she stops to look at the camera, and leans ever-so-slightly to one side as she makes her exit.

Now you know this truly was the end of the story, because this was a memory of childhood, of absolute good and evil, of perfect intent and decisive action. Whatever follows next would have to be told differently, from slants not perpendiculars.

But, I would add, it would in no way invalidate what came before. We are always children, always have more to learn.

"I embrace my desire to feel the rhythm, to feel connected
To swing on a spiral of our divinity and still be a human
Spiral out, keep going."

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