Life Aquatic and the Subtle Amidst the Loud

This was my laptop desktop image during my year in the MFA. Jordan put it on my computer, and it reminded me 1) that I have a cool husband and 2) to keep dreaming big.

This was my laptop desktop image during my year in the MFA. Jordan put it on my computer, and it reminded me 1) that I have a cool husband and 2) to keep dreaming big.

Watched Life Aquatic again, years after watching it for the first time. First, I have to say — I forgot how SAD it was. When we hit play, I did not expect to have my face drenched in tears before it ended. Somehow I’d completely blocked the sad part out of my memory and it came as a pretty big shock.

But the sad part is really not what I wanted to talk about. When I think about Wes Anderson as a director, what stands out the most are his exaggerated characters, his eye-popping production design, his picture-book-like cinematography. It’s all so noticeable and loud (and always so pleasing to the eye on so many levels), but watching Life Aquatic this time reminded me where Wes’ genius really lies:

Even though his characters are always so bigger-than-life and so odd, the relationships between characters—what’s going on between them—is handled more subtlely. It’s not that you can’t see the filmmaker’s hand there too. Just like everything you see on screen, just about every word feels like it’s there for a purpose. It’s definitely scripted.

The genius of it though, I think, is that to understand what the story is really about, you have to look past all the oh-so-satisfying “noise” of the production and examine the story being told in the tension between sentences, in the direction of someone’s gaze, in what’s not being said.

That’s one reason that several days after watching what might come across to some people as a silly, weird little movie, I am still thinking about the equally silly and weird characters and contemplating what it is that they’ve taught me about life and myself.



2 thoughts on “Life Aquatic and the Subtle Amidst the Loud

  1. renbeth says:

    I feel I should begin by admitting that I am not precisely a Wes Anderson fan. But my brother did give me *Moonrise Kingdom* for my birthday and I really loved it in a way I don’t love Anderson’s other films, and I think part of the reason is precisely what you’re getting at here. Anderson refuses to let you forget you’re watching a movie, that you’re consuming a very deliberately and carefully constructed piece of art. This can be (and for me, usually is) off-putting. But the artifice actually has the potential to open a different kind of space up for emotional truth-telling, I think, because you can strip it away so cleanly and then see the honesty that underpins the whole endeavor. There is a kind of genius in that model of story-telling, even if I don’t always find it successful.

    • Rose Card-Faux says:

      I did love Moonrise Kingdom. It’s right up there near the top of my Wes Anderson list. I think my favorite of his, though, is Darjeeling Limited. A lot of my friends who love Wes Anderson didn’t like that one as much. They said it was too slow, but to me it was possibly his most “mature” film. I felt like maybe it was the most comfortable in its own skin. Have you seen that one? I’d be curious to know if the production style got in the way for you. It’s always interesting to me how different films effect different people. Now I’ll have to go watch Darjeeling again and see what I think of it now.

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