This year, AMC began its Best Picture Showcase, a 2-day event featuring all of the films nominated for Oscar best picture, by showing Amour. My first thought for why they had selected this as the opener was so that we would get through the subtitles before our eyes turned bleary. A few shots into the film, though, I decided this was probably the worst of the 9 films to start with. As we audience members settled in for the long haul, excited and raring to go, we were met almost immediately with jarring silence.
During the first few long shots with no dialogue, my thoughts focused on how odd and off-putting they seemed, how arty the film felt as I stared across the 2-dimensional plane to another audience settling into their own seats. As the story progressed and I was drawn into the characters’ world, the excitement for my own event dissipated and I accepted the pauses as moments to reflect on their situation. The silences resonated with almost tangible emotion.
By the end of the film, I found myself filling the silences by remembering my own past and imagining my own future. I came back out of the world on the screen and saw the universality of the content and how it extended to all life outside of the fiction. The value of Amour is that it doesn’t hide segments because they are hard to watch. It doesn’t skip over the silent moments because they are awkward. It embraces the uncomfortable because it is only in the discomfort that we audience members are forced to consider what we generally try so hard to ignore.
Leading up to this week’s Oscars nominations, I have my fingers crossed that Beasts of the Southern Wild will make the Best Picture list. Not only does this independent gem deserve to make the list, as it was my favorite film of the year, of the last 10 years, but the additional exposure of being nominated will spread its message of resilience to an even greater audience. And the more people who see this powerful film and understand the warning it offers, the better off the human race will be.
From Ben Richardson’s handheld cinematography depicting the Louisiana landscape and its people, to Benh Zeitlin & Dan Romer’s score skillfully creating a unique blend of cultures, I was transported to the Bathtub for a short while. During my stay, I was struck several times at how captivated I was, enthralled by each in a sequence of events that unfolded in an astounding roller coaster ride that seemed to be always descending the big hill. The string of drama never paused long enough for me to fully explore the powerful metaphors being played out on screen, but I was perfectly satisfied to let the film wash over me and leave the symbology open-ended, meaning many things at once.
Link to trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wqt5m0OBkjE
Upon reflection afterwards, though, the true resonant nature of the images and ideas presented come to full fruition. The film seamlessly blends fantasy and realism, providing entertainment and insight into the human spirit. Towards the bottom of its many layers, I also see Beasts as a cautionary tale about our planet’s potential future and our lack of readiness to confront it. After the severe droughts, floods, and superstorms that 2012 brought us, climate change is undeniable, as is the dire situation faced by the Bathtub dwellers. We can look at the characters in the movie as examples and discover our choices to deal with our own looming storms. Since we can’t leave our Bathtub as some non-Beast residents do, we will either have to employ the incredible hardiness of the few, or we have to do everything possible to prevent our next storm from coming.
Take from Beasts of the Southern Wild what you will, since there is an incredible amount there to be found. Regardless of whether you find the same mix of foreboding and hope and encouragement that I did, whether your mind and heart are opened in the same ways as mine were, I truly believe every person on this planet would do well to spend a couple hours in this world.