Where the Wild Things Are

November 1, 2009

art / culture

Recently, Kiera and I went to see Where the Wild Things Are. At first, neither of us were interested in seeing the movie, but I heard a story on NPR where one of the screenwriters made me really interested, and continued to see great reviews in various sources. Kiera heard something similar a couple of days later, and so we were both excited to see it.

We don’t have any kids yet. Kiera works with preschoolers on a part-time basis as she finishes seminary, and has also been an elementary age pastor, a full-time preschool teacher, a nanny, and various other things. I have been terrified of children for many years, partly due to various thoughts of how annoying I was as a child, and partly because of a fear that children will cause me to live a mundane, powerless story (though I do understand that I am more than capable of doing this on my own).

But though we don’t have any kids, we talk and think from time to time about dreams that we have for the kids that will hopefully come into our lives in a couple of years, and on top of that we greatly enjoy books, movies, and other art that can appeal, or be written for, children, from Pixar to C.S. Lewis. We find great depth in these things, and both of us have been shaped by seeing this kind of art differently as adults than we would as children.

For me, Where the Wild Things Are was a great example of this. I found the movie to be deeply chaotic, dark, and visceral; and it is wonderful to experience movies like that. They speak to our psyches and have the power to take us deep into our emotions, and into examination of ourselves. We desperately need things like this in our culture, and I think this movie gives a great place for people to do that.

The movie brings up so many issues, from our desire to be loved by and love, the power and voice of our imaginations, and the idealism with which we often approach new situations, and their tendency to fade into nothingness. When Max arrives at the island of the Wild Things, he is able to convince him to make him their king by telling them that all sadness and loneliness will go away.

There is such depth in those words. We desperately want something to make our sadness and loneliness go away, and we think people can do that for us. The Wild Things eventually learn that Max can’t do that for them, and that he has as many problems as they do. Their response is, rightfully so, to believe that there is no such thing as a king. Nothing can do these things for them.

But the movie doesn’t leave us in nothingness. Max and the Wild Things, as he leaves their land, seem to have come to an understanding that they are nothing more than their selves, and yet this is okay. Their is a rage and a hurt and a loneliness inside these selves, and that is okay too. These selves, with all these issues, can still love other selves.