Where the Wild Things Are (2009)
Starring Max Records and Catherine Keener.
Voiced by James Gandolfini, Catharine O’Hara, Paul Dano, Forest Whitaker, Chris Cooper and Lauren Ambrose.
Synopsis (From official website):
Innovative director Spike Jonze collaborates with celebrated author Maurice Sendak to bring one of the most beloved books of all time to the big screen.
The film tells the story of Max, a rambunctious and sensitive boy who feels misunderstood at home and escapes to where the Wild Things are. Max lands on an island where he meets mysterious and strange creatures whose emotions are as wild and unpredictable as their actions.
This film is potent. It is dark and raw, beautiful and sad. This films goes beyond the purview of the children’s book and really delves into how divorce can effect a child. Max is lonely and misunderstood and frustrated. This film does not use much dialogue to express these emotions because Max himself does not have the words to express his struggles. He is so young and yet going through so much pain. He tries to connect with his mother and sister, but they too are struggling and so he feels disconnected, abandoned by his father, and powerless. This is what leads to his acting out, and leads him to his imaginary world, a world just as disfunctional as the real one. In this world each “Wild Thing” represents an aspect of himself, and members of his family. One is angry, another feels overlooked. This place of imagination helps him process what he is going through. I so wanted to reach out to this fragile, hurting child. I wanted to:
Be Thou their companion in their loneliness, their helper in a strange land, the remover of their sorrows, their comforter in calamity. Be Thou a refreshing draught for their thirst, a healing medicine for their ills and a balm for the burning ardor of their hearts. —‘Abdu’l-Bahá
I think this film is important for us as a society to watch. It may not be light and fun and entertaining, in fact, while it was visually stunning and beautiful, it was painful to watch. But pain is good, pain helps us grow.
Men who suffer not, attain no perfection. The plant most pruned by the gardeners is that one which, when the summer comes, will have the most beautiful blossoms and the most abundant fruit.—‘Abdu’l-Bahá
Often when we see children acting out we may be quick to judge their actions, their behavior, but the world is a difficult place. Our actions as adults effect children. Divorce is a difficult thing for all involved. It leaves young children feeling insecure, confused, hurt, and lonely. It rips families apart and can leave people aching. There are times when it is necessary (in cases of abuse), but is it always?
Divorce has really changed the landscape of our society, the nature of our families, and is indicative of the pain and mistrust we have inside of ourselves. Films like this give us opportunity to reflect upon our actions, their motives, and their consequences. It also gives us time to reflect on the importance of love and compassion, and helping each other work through pain.
I have never been married, so I cannot speak to how easy or difficult it is. What I can speak to is that there is a lot of confusion regarding marriage, and the nature of commitment. People joke of starter marriages, and of “trading up” and I can’t help but hurt thinking about people like commodities. I also can’t help but lament that the only discussions that seem to be happening regarding marriage in the news revolve around the rights for gays to marry. We need to have more discussions regarding the nature of marriage itself, the nature of commitment, how a healthy marriage can help the children born of that marriage to flourish, and how the dissolution of marriages are costly emotionally, materially, and spiritually. One thing that helps me when meditating on the meaning of marriage is to look to guidance, such as:
The friends of God must so live and conduct themselves, and evince such excellence of and conduct, as to make others astonished. The love between husband and wife should not be purely physical, nay, rather it must be spiritual and heavenly. These two souls should be considered as one soul. How difficult it would be to divide a single soul! Nay, great would be the difficulty! —‘Abdu’l-Bahá
So often we go to movies to escape, but this art can also be a mirror, a mirror that helps us to reflect on ourselves and our society. It can uplift and empower us through emotion and help us cultivate understanding and empathy.
All Art is a gift of the Holy Spirit. When this light shines through the mind of a musician, it manifests itself in beautiful harmonies. Again, shining through the mind of a poet, it is seen in fine poetry and poetic prose. When the Light of the Sun of Truth inspires the mind of a painter, he produces marvellous pictures. These gifts are fulfilling their highest purpose, when showing forth the praise of God. —‘Abdu’l-Bahá
One thing I am going to walk away from this film with is a greater desire to love and serve humanity. Our society is going through a lot of pain now and love is its only countermeasure. When the people I know, whether friends, family, members of the community, or strangers I meet on a train, are suffering, I want to be a balm. I think part of what was so painful for me watching this film was that I could not reach out and comfort Max. I couldn’t give him a hug. I could listen to him, or let him heave and cry on my shoulder. However, there are many real people that need comfort too and I want to be there. I want to be present, unlike the people in Max’s life. This may not be possible, but I can strive. This film has inspired me to strive.
Do not be content with showing friendship in words alone. Let your heart burn with loving-kindness for all who may cross your path. ~ ‘Abdu’l-Bahá