Ten years after The Beasts of the Wild South, Benh Zeitlin rediscovers childhood misfortune, by rediscovering the myth of Peter Pan through Wendy’s eyes. A subject that reaches out to her, and fits perfectly with her love of margins, off-beats and interior lighting.
WILD SOUTH MOVIE
“He said the world had no end, that it was headed for infinity.” The few words young Wendy uttered as she watched the boy convincing her to sneak up on the train said all about Benh Zeitlin’s new film, its brilliant ambitions, and its immense success. We haven’t heard from the director since Les Bêtes du sud sauvage, presented at the Cannes and Sundance festivals in 2012.
With a similar canvas we found him, thanks to a new childish journey , which he wrote this time with his sister Eliza Zeitlin , and set to music, always with Dan Romer . An almost unchanged team, therefore, that nicely echoes the hilarious clan that Zeitlin filmed. And that’s what touches in the first place. A perfect match between the subject matter, the poor troop on board for the initial voyage, and the set.
Never trying to force the composition of his shots, preferring to let his characters happen and be captured, with a fleeting touch, their emotions and their impulsive movements, he composes an impressionist canvas with stunning liveliness. Just like in his first feature film, we can feel the real influence of Terrence Malick’s cinema, whose use of voice acting is perhaps only the most obvious symptom, but also the most digestible. Choosing the 16mm shot, we feel how the author has worked on the importance of the colors, textures, graininess of the image that he wants to match the radiant soul of his heroes.
So, from the opening and pretentious fugue in slow motion of a barely walking toddler, the feeling of being immersed in the flow of a child’s influence and thoughts is significant. Since editing often breaks the linearity of the sequence, but does not seek to lose us, it manages to produce a flow of images, movement, with the virtues of hypnosis. Highly sensory, Wendy didn’t pick her title at random. Taking inspiration from Peter Pan in JM Barrie, he shifts his focus to the main female character, completing the journey, a fresh look at the universe that unfolds before him. The continuous magic that is the basis of all active principles of film.
AT THE END OF STORY
Aware that adapting a story means not chasing the shadows of its prey, Benh Zeitlin does not try too hard to reproduce the great moments of the original text, nor does he make his epic a faithful adaptation. What he followed was this adventurous feeling, the powerful breath of the prospect elsewhere. As we wrote above, the filmmaker is constantly working to break the conventional narrative, but he never loses the thread of his device.
Indeed, what he sacrifices for the screenplay, he finds in the organic material of the story, the subtle setting of his works.
For example, it’s common for feelings of melancholy or excitement to overwhelm us when a musical note appears, which responds perfectly to a shot in a film, suddenly fills it completely. As if light plays the role of an informed storyteller here, we follow with enchantment, from the blue hour to the shining dawn, its iridescent trail on skin tones. This is what allows feature films, instead of imitating rereaded works, to attempt to extract substantive marrow from them. A chronicle of dreams that refuses to end, the novel finds here one of its most brilliant reinventions, one that attempts and almost succeeds in re-engaging a worn-out world.
We’re only sorry that despite the many discoveries and graceful moments, Wendy is limited by its duration, which holds in places the feeling of weightlessness that governs most of the film. Its somewhat loose narrative structure doesn’t adapt well to the idiosyncrasies of its surroundings, when the plot seems to stutter, and our characters repeat themselves. We now hope to find a band at Zeitlin before nearly a decade, driven by a new project capable of allowing their talent to shine again.