Two of Every Animal: Moonrise Kingdom, Independent Film, and the Cinema Experience
“What kind of bird are you?” asks Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman), and again, the theater rattles with a soul-shaking bass. The film is Moonrise Kingdom, Wes Anderson’s newest, and on either side of the cinema, The Dark Knight is rising, loudly. There are lines out the door. Theater attendants direct the flow of eager Batman fans to the correct entrance. A sign reads, “All bags will be searched,” and a woman with a nametag reassures a teenage boy that security and safety are of the utmost importance, though none of the perspective viewers seem all that worried. They waited too long, and it’s too hot outside, for this moment to be ruined by the tragic events of the prior evening. They want catharsis through spectacle. They were promised a blockbuster, and they won’t be turned away.
Where my friend and I are sitting, it’s a different story. Twelve, maybe fourteen people are scattered around (the movie is well into its theatrical run), eyes primed to take in the sumptuous marvels of Moonrise Kingdom, and for the next two hours, we become family. Next door, at The Dark Knight Rises, they feel it, too - that glorious bond of giving in to the screen, but my family is not theirs. Tonight, I’m searching for whimsy, a profundity, maybe. I want hope. Whether or not Moonrise Kingdom delivers, and it does, I’m glad my family is with me.
“I’m a raven,” Suzy (Kara Hayward) replies. Sam, facing the camera, wasn’t asking her. He was asking us. The flood is rising, every day. Are we prepared? Are we paired up? Anderson’s film is one filled with outsiders, orphans, estranged spouses, and sad romantics, all struggling to define themselves. “I am a scoutmaster,” Scout Master Ward (Ed Norton) proclaims. “I’m a math teacher on the side.” In the dressing room for a church production of Noye’s Fludde, Suzy cuts herself away from the mold of the other girls costumed as other birds. She is a raven, and the raven is unique, the first bird sent to seek land in the Biblical parable. However, the young women do not, perhaps, realize that they all contain the possibility for flight, that none are tethered to disaster, no matter how great. Later, at a second performance of Noye’s Fludde, Suzy and Sam, incognito, don fox masks, though they are spotted immediately by Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis). Like, after all, recognizes like.
Wes Anderson’s oeuvre has always been about the dichotomy of independence and the desire for acceptance. The Tenenbaums hate one another, but they’re family. Steve Zissou never wanted to be a father, but he finds acceptance in his son, Ned. The brothers of The Darjeeling Unlimited face the flood, in whatever form it may take, together. Their bond is that great.
Wes Andersons’ films ask the audience, “Are you one of us?” Inside the mostly empty theater, we reply, “yes.” Maybe tomorrow it will be different, and these same cinephiles will immerse themselves in Nolan’s brooding vision. Maybe tomorrow they’ll want a blockbuster, and maybe I will, too, but not tonight. Tonight I want hope, and beauty, and some solidarity, goddammit, because I deserve it. We all do.
What kind of bird are you?