The Human Experience: Existential Beauty, Internal Darkness

beasts breakers The human experience seems to be the flavor of the week, or rather, of the past five years. From illustrators to authors to filmmakers everyone is concerned with capturing what it means to be a person today. Two filmmakers in particular have released films in the past year that illustrate in two vastly different ways the life of the modern human. Benh Zeitlin tackled the issue in his 2012 Sundance breakout film Beasts of the Southern Wild, a film chronicling the adventures of six-year-old Hushpuppy as she and her ailing father navigate life in a near-forgotten society outside the levees of New Orleans. When a hurricane hits, the society, called the Bathtub, is flooded, causing Hushpuppy to view the universe as a puzzle interconnected by various pieces. It€™s a naïvely beautiful take on the world and its inhabitants. Much of the story is told by Hushpuppy via voiceover and lends credence to her childlike perception of the world. Her belief that everything is connected serves almost as a call to action; a wake up call to the audience. It€™s as if she€™s saying, €œWe€™re all in this together people. We depend on each other. If one of us fails, the others are soon to follow.€ The visual representation of this comes in the form of a herd of aurochs, extinct beasts frozen in the Antarctic shelf, thawed and set free by the hurricane, which, as Hushpuppy believes, was caused by her father€™s mysterious heart illness. The film never asks the viewer to accept it as truth; indeed, its fantastic and out-there story is much easier to connect with than a gritty true-to-life melodrama. Beasts of the Southern Wild The film€™s most beautiful and strangely down to earth scene occurs during the picture€™s final minutes. After easing the water out of the Bathtub and escaping the FEMA-like medical station, Hushpuppy comes face to face with the lumbering aurochs, roughly four times her size. The beasts then kneel to the child, who exudes such a force as to be admired. It€™s the story of a group of people, a community, who just want to live life their own way, as they€™ve been doing for generations. They do not indulge, but they survive. The other auteur, Harmony Korine, has always been a vilified character in Hollywood. After a raging and violent addiction to cocaine near the advent of his career, Korine went on to make such controversial films as Trash Humpers and, most recently, Spring Breakers. The latter of those two films follows four college co-eds, who rob a fast food joint and use the money to take a spring break in St. Petersburg, Flo. Regarding how experimental the film is, it€™s Korine at his usual. In terms of the subject matter, it€™s much the usual but also something new. Korine usually displays characters on the fringes of society; the downtrodden, the misfits, those deemed untouchable. This time around, however, Korine has presented four genuinely relatable characters: college kids who want to go on spring break. They€™re good looking and come from loving families as is revealed through phone calls made midway through the film. spring breakers Whereas Beasts of the Southern Wild presented life from an existential viewpoint, how all life is connected, Spring Breakers looks at life from the inside out. It shows how exterior beauty is not exemplary of what it looks like inside. The first film is about beauty and is a celebration of life; the second film forces us to confront to negativity in society, the ugliness that rots us from within. Korine€™s statement with Spring Breakers is one regarding the loss of innocence. These girls have found paradise, but lost themselves. What have they sacrificed for a week of partying and debauchery? The introduction of gunrunner Alien, played to perfection by James Franco, throws, and pardon to pun, an alien element into their week. He forces them to go further than some of them are willing and the darkness they€™ve descended in to, currently saturated with pink and white, deepens to pure pitch. Korine€™s greatest social commentary pops up at the end of the film, when it appears as if he celebrates the materialistic and dark nature of these girls. One film celebrates beauty while the other celebrates darkness. Regardless of their prevailing themes both films contain an accuracy that many will refuse to see. It€™s never fun to confront personal failings or shortcomings, which is why we leave it to the artists.
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I'm a graduate of Central Michigan University with a B.A.A. in Broadcast & Cinematic Arts and a Minor in Journalism. I've been writing about film for four years and am also a screenwriter. My fifth script ever was turned into my student film, produced the summer before my fourth year.