Sunday, 7 November 2010

Where the Wild Things Are

This is an adaptation of the well known children's story by  Maurice Sendak. Max is a loner. No friends, a teenage sister with friends who are too cool to be seen with younger Max and an absent father. It is clear form the outset that Max has developed strategies to cope by internalising his world and inappropriately externalising his emotions. After his sister's friends destroy Max's igloo, he vents his anger on what he considers to be his sister's most prized possessions by destroying them. He then goes to bed where his mother comes home to find him crying. As he is in bed, the camera zooms in on a globe with an inscription plate "To Max - owner of the World, Love Dad". Max immediately confesses his crime.

Later we see his mother entertaining a boyfriend and because she doesn't respond to Max's pleas to view his rebuilt fort in his bedroom he throws a tantrum which ends in a huge confrontation and he runs off into the night until he finds a boat by the sea in which he sets sail. Yes - the story does move at that pace.

The next hour of the film takes place in Max's imagination. He sails for days and eventually finds landfall where large wild creatures live. Initially they want to eat him but he persuades them that he is a king and they relent and agree for Max to rule them.

Max's special friend is Carol (voiced by James Gandolfini) but he pretty much makes good relationships with all the Wild Things. For days they play and have adventures and Carol shows Max around his kingdom - a place with strikingly contrasting habitats, woods, sand deserts, rocky coastlines and mountains with caves. All the time the Wild Things are squabbling and Max keeps the peace.

It is as thought the Wild Things are personas of either Max or members of his family which invite you to map them. Carol is very similar to Max - or is he Max's father? Judith would seem to be his sister Claire. Whilst KW who is always on the verge of leaving would appear to present a picture of Max's mother, his only anchor in reality. Towards the end of the story, Max fleeing from Carol encounters KW who hides Max in her stomach! This gives Max a womb-like experience after which he musters enough courage to return home. When he arrives home, it as though he has not been away too long. His mother embraces him and all appears to be well.

Maybe this was a cathartic sojourn, or a rite of passage that enabled Max the boy to begin becoming Max the young man. If you were to create a world and populate it with creatures what they be like and what  would they do? Sounds a bit like The Sims!! I'm sure that with further viewings and scrutiny the story would yield many insights into Max's psyche and invite us to explore our own. On the other hand you could simply enjoy a children's story, or play The Sims. Is anything ever that simple?

A worthy watch.

I'll give it 6.5/10

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