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Sunday, June 9, 2013

Viewfinder: Moonrise Kingdom

For this post I thought I would try something a bit different.

Viewfinder is a new segment I'm starting on my blog wherein I take a scene from a movie that I particularly enjoy and break it down into the interstitial pieces to try and answer why I like it so much.

The attention to detail is through the roof in this film

On the menu today is Wes Anderson's "Moonrise Kingdom". The sequence in question can be found here.

Moonrise Kingdom is the kind of movie that is improved by knowing the director's prior catalog. It's already a pretty solid film but in this case, Wes Anderson seems to have culminated the combined efforts, stylings, and experimentations with his previous films to create a pastiche of his own devices. Heightened though his worlds already may be, even the stop motion film, "The Fantastic Mr. Fox" provides a few influences on how he handled Moonrise Kingdom. One such demonstration of this can be observed in the first seconds of the clip I've provided.

Cutaways to set pieces are a classic staple of Anderson's work; for this film, maps are animated with colored beads and strings along with the appropriate foley of either sonar or morse code transmissions. This provides a rather pleasing visual effect for travel/communication which is perfectly in keeping with the storybook aesthetic that the film thrives in.

Next we are greeted by a low light shot illuminating our narrator Bob Balaban with the subtle glow of dusk as he releases a weather balloon into the sky above. He approaches the camera, flicking a light on in the process, then proceeds to expound on the weather conditions that we as an audience already know will develop into a storm (in three days time as a matter of fact). Immediately this calls back to Alec Baldwin's turn as a narrator in "The Royal Tenenbaums". The key difference here though is how much bolder Wes Anderson seems to have become with his use of this device. In "The Royal Tenenbaums" the narrator is neither a character that we meet or know much about, other than that he seems to have a thorough knowledge of the family. Bob Balaban however, lives simultaneously outside and within the film. We even learn that he was one of Sam's teachers at a certain point. As he explains the circumstances of his location and weather conditions the camera subtly swings with him as he changes position on the rocks. It is a rather commanding gesture that seems to metaphorically illustrate that he is unquestionably in command of the movie, as could be argued by how he turns the lights on and off for this particular scene. The lighting also seems to be a reference to stage performances, wherein a character, during an expository scene, will be spotlighted only to fade out, or even back into the scene from whence they came, as needed.

And indeed, our narrator does just that. As he finishes up his forecast, he returns to the light, clicks it off and silently walks off screen. The switching of the light tells us that we have now been returned to the story, the exposition is over, and just beyond our view, the canoes of the young Khaki Scouts making their way to Fort Lebanon row ashore.

It is a masterful scene within a masterful movie. 


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