(This article was written by me on April 29th 2016)
“How can guys like us worry about a tiny little thing like the sun?”
Spike Jonze’s Where The Wild Things Are is fucking heartbreaking.
The film is based upon the story that you almost certainly grew up on: about the ever charming Max who, after running away, becomes “king” of a mysterious, nameless island (where there are wild things).
It’s a joy to watch. The way Jonze and Max (who plays the character of the same name) manage to capture the fragile but excitable nature of childhood is kind of something extraordinary. It’s that pure, unbridled, emotional fun of wrestling and running and smashing shit with your friends until the sun set or one of you was in tears. (Whichever came first). Full of typically youthful, relate-able moments such as “I stepped on your face. Here, step on mine” (because mutual pain was the universal currency for forgiveness): the film is awash with nostalgia. A rarely gentle, mostly manic, always poignant score underlines the rustic, handheld cinematography and it all adds up to something which is undeniably original and will catch you off guard with its ability to raise goosebumps.
Despite this, response to the film seems to be quite mixed and at first, this confused me a little. Admittedly, the movie sometimes falls into the self-indulgent, “airy-fairy” territory that Spike Jonze often seems to be guilty of finding himself in though I don’t believe this is the cause of the criticisms. WTWTA has a certain charm to it that makes it so easy to forgive.
In my opinion, people aren’t satisfied with the film, not because it isn’t satisfying to watch, but because it doesn’t come to a satisfying conclusion. In the end, Max just kind of… leaves.
I could talk for hours about multiple messages littered throughout the movie. Messages of parenthood; friendship; the need (or lack there of) for a father figure…
But what I want to touch on is a far simpler and more obvious topic: growing up.
Early on in the film, Max, along with a group of other very young looking children are told by a teacher that the sun will die. Its a bleak little prophecy to begin with but paints a clear image of the way the film will portray it’s adult figures.
In WTWTA, adults seem obsessed with the end. The end of the world, the sun, their jobs, relationships, etcetera, etcetera. Max and The Wild Things, however, destroy their surroundings with a wonderful sense of ignorance. They rip through trees and “houses” and each other with ease, not caring for the anarchy around them simply because they are confident that their imagination will always be able to build up ten times the amount that they tear down. All this being said, it’s not as if they never experience “ends”. In fact it’s quite the opposite. Max lost his dad. He is in the process of losing his sister to adolescence and of course he lost that great ice fort. The difference is his attitude towards it.
Adults seem scarred by the constant “ends” that they have faced. Obsessed with the immanent closure to everything because its hard-wired into their being from experience after experience that good things tend not to last very long. It’s melancholic but it’s pretty true to life don’t you think? Through childhood we have that inkling, itching feeling at the back of our minds that most fun as reckless as ours will result in tears. We know it will come to an end. We just don’t care.
So, how appropriate that Max just kind of… leaves.
Just like KW just kind of left Carol and the rest of the group for Bob and Terry. Just like you just kind of left wrestling and running and smashing shit with your friends.
Where The Wild Things Are does not have a satisfying conclusion but it is pretty rare that anything ever does. Everything is fleeting. But rather than focussing on the future and what’s to come and the end and the sun’s eventual consumption of the earth (who could forget?), shouldn’t we adopt Max and Carol‘s mindset instead? Like Max, shouldn’t we get swept up in the moment? Shouldn’t we be blissfully ignorant? Shouldn’t we be kings and queens and dream and have a wild rumpus of a time?
written by Caleb Carter