Moonrise Kingdom starts with Leonard Bernstein’s piece: “The Young Person’s Guide Tote Orchestra”. That piece, above all represents what the movie tries, and in my opinion succeeds to achieve: create a visual/auditory composition. Wes Anderson wants us to look at his movie as if we are listening to a musical piece. He combines all the movie elements to create a whole cinematic experience, like a composer uses all the musical instruments to create a musical composition.
In this romantic comedy, Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward) meet and decide to elope. Sam and Suzy are outcasts in their own communities. They are strange birds and it’s no wonder that when Sam meets Suzy for the first time, he asks her “What kind of bird are you?” Without trying to be nostalgic, the movie focuses on the simple story of two children falling in love. It’s a classic story, but it is set up in an era (the 60’s) and location (isolated island) where things seem simpler. There’s a whiff of naivety that we rarely experience these days. Coupled with the sounds and images, you feel you want to be there, maybe you are already there.
The aesthetics of the movie are quite remarkable. The colours of nature stand in contrast to the colours of the customs and the human made artifacts displayed throughout the movie. The acting and dialogue, while on their own might seem like un-natural, feels suitable to the overall composition and different personality traits of the various characters. The cinematography uses long shots of rooms and scenery while less is said and more is understood. The audio consists mostly of classical music and beating drums which made me feel as I am looking into a dream, but a lucid dream, one that I could believe to be real.
All the actors (besides the children) play archetypes of authority figures: Bruce Willis as the island cop, Edward Norton as the scouts master ward and Bill Murray and Frances McDormand as Suzy’s parents. They all feel as if they are the exact opposite of what they should be, and yet, they are so good at it. We all felt our parents malfunctioned to a certain level, that our authoritative figures were far from perfect, and here they are quite helpless and somewhat clueless. I found myself sympathizing with most of the characters in the movie. Even social services played by Tilda Swinton, character seemed more agreeable as the story unfolds. Each supposed villain has its redemption point in the movie.
As for cultural references, the movie mostly refers to Benjamin Britten’s works, both his music and work. It has some subtle references to the European cinema as well as subtle references to movies by some of the actors themselves. Overall, this is a wonderful movie that I won’t hesitate to watch again. It is probably one of the best movies this year, if not the best. A must see.