Purple Diary

[October 19 2009]

Where the wild things are by Spike Jonze

It took more than 5 years for Spike Jonze to complete his live-action adaption of Maurice Sendak’s 1963 children’s book. The film is a masterpiece even though its reception by the American press focuses on whether the film is right for children, complaining about its dark and violent aspects. I imagine that Spike Jonze surely had to compromise to position his film as a kid’s movie but his vision of this classic American children’s book is really interesting. The monsters are recognizable from Sendak’s original drawings, but Jonze has given them names and distinct personalities which add an interesting political and sociological meaning to the story beyond its innocent emotion. The monsters are wild, dangerous, and completely out of control, yet totally human and irrationnal at the same time. The contrast between their ugly animalistic look and their crystal clear American studio voices is hilarious. The film questions the personal desire for power (Max declares he is a king) connected to the dream for the community to have a leader (the monster Carol being the only one to really believe in this democratic dream and that of a better society). Spike Jonze makes clear that it’s the failure of this dream that brings the community together. Maurice Sendak said recently in the Los Angeles Times, “I’ve never seen a movie that looked or felt like this. And it’s [Spike Jonze’s] personal ‘this.’ And he’s not afraid of himself. He’s a real artist that lets it come through in the work. So he’s touched me. He’s touched me very much.” Text and photo Olivier Zahm

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