The honour of opening the Cannes Film Festival 2012 was awarded to Moonrise Kingdom, the latest on-screen triumph of American film director and screenwriter Wes Anderson. This eccentric film follows the 12 year old romance of a 1960s-era scout and his girlfriend, who run away together, and the search party of family and locals who fan out to find them.
Moonrise Kingdom was instantly recognisable as the creation of this inspirational artist as Anderson is renowned for the uniqueness of his work. His films have developed several trademarks: the dominance of primary colours, a reliance on methodical cinematography, the championing of antiheros and an accompanying soundtrack of folk music and classic British rock. This continuity is enhanced by Anderson’s tendency to return to his favourite actors and collaborators for each new project. For example, Bill Murray has been recruited for every Anderson film to date with Owen Wilson and Jason Schwartzman also making frequent appearances. All these signature choices have led to Anderson successfully developing his own unmistakable on-screen world.
Anderson’s films focus on making the viewers believe how the characters are feeling and that the events that the audience witnesses are really happening. It’s all about accepting the illusion as truth and becoming absorbed into the screen. This idealistic concept of filmmaking has led Anderson to reject market-tested characters and develop his own brand of unlikely, flawed heroes. The 12-year-old couple who are central to Moonrise Kingdom and the array of dysfunctional adults who surround them are classic examples of Andersonian characters and together they explore a favourite theme of his – the fragility of family life.
This individualistic style of Anderson’s work has been possible by his making films entirely on his own terms and thus he has become something of an outsider, not unlike his protagonists. His singular creations are metaphorical Marmite; for all the audiences enraptured by his whimsical productions there are equally critical reviews. This is possibly because, as Anderson admits, his films can be interpreted in many different ways. They evoke a complex range of emotions, never fully aiming to portray one emotion as dominant. This idea represents something innately human and is one of the many reasons why some audiences love his work, while others find it challenging. Despite these critical opinions, Anderson’s distinctive style has captured a strong fan base, including giants of film such as Martin Scorsese, and Anderson’s influence can now be seen in recent works such as Richard Ayoade’s Submarine.
Written by Bonnie Stephensmith