Walter's World: The Composer's Flood and the Filmmaker's Storm
Benjamin Britten's music on the soundtrack to Wes Anderson's new film, Moonrise Kingdom is one of this quirky film's most endearing qualities. By exploring the film's use of Britten's opera about the Biblical Noah, Walter Metz describes how the film charts a course to the redemption of failed patriarchal relationships.
There's a scene in the middle of Wes Anderson's terrific new film, Moonrise Kingdom(2012), recently released to DVD in the US, in which a slovenly father, Walt Bishop (played with typical drollery by Bill Murray) talks with his wife Laura (played by Frances McDormand) about their odd daughter, Suzy (Kara Hayward) who has run away with a 13 year old boy scout, Sam (Jared Gilman). When Laura sighs, „We're all she's got“, Walt replies with cold precision, „ It's not enough.“ The moment exemplifies the failure of patriarchy that binds the film together via a surprisingly learned set of intertexts.
An orphan, Sam has two role models within the film, both of whom prove inadequate. He flees the troop because Scout Master Ward (played by Edward Norton), while good at quoting regulations, does not control the brutal behavior of the other boy scouts, nor can he stand up to the authority above him, especially Commander Pierce (played by Harvey Keitel). The man who eventually will adopt Sam, Captain Sharp (played by Bruce Willis) begins the film as a selfish cad, having a seemingly loveless affair with Sam's mother, Laura.
The film's plot is built around a hurricane, one of the worst storms ever to strike the islands off the coast of New England. Via an allusion to the flood of the Book of Genesis, this storm comes to signify the purging of the lives of the film's characters, represented most dramatically by a lightning bolt which destroys the steeple of the town's church, inside of which the villagers have been huddled. After this purification, Captain Sharp adopts Sam, setting both of their worlds right again.
The church is central to the film, as it is the location where Sam first meets Suzy, a performer in the town's production of Benjamin Britten's opera, „Noye's Fludde “(1958). The work of a gay man in a distinctly homophobic society, many of Britten's musical pieces feature male out-group characters, misunderstood by the world around them. Noah is such a figure in the mystery plays, a seemingly crazy man foolish enough to build an ark because God told him to. Britten is Moonrise Kingdom's fellow traveler. The film begins with Suzy playing a record of Britten's masterpiece, The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra (1946), composed to teach children about the sections of a symphony orchestra. Moonrise Kingdom itself becomes a guide to young persons, understanding their importance to conceiving a world better than the one they've been bequeathed by adults.
Please see the next page to discover how filmmaker Wes Anderson and composer Benjamin Britten approach childhood in similar ways.
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