Darker than your average children’s movie, Where the Wild Things Are by Spike Jonze truly captures the tone of danger and disorder in a kid’s life. Jonze did stick to the plot of the original children’s book written by Maurice Sendak but also filled it in with a backstory and emotional reality. Spike Jonze brilliantly uses many features of film such as camera techniques, music, lighting and setting throughout the movie to explore aspects of Coming of Age. Through these features, aspects such as rebellion, need to belong and desire for power come to life.
Max is a lonely 9 year old boy who can’t seem to find anyone to share his imagination with as his sister Clara is older and preoccupied with her own life as a teenager and his divorced mum is busy with work and her new boyfriend. This results in Max rebelling as he struggles to deal with emotions like jealousy and frustration. A symbol of his rebellion is seen in his wolf costume as the moment he puts it on the audience can observe the change in his behaviour. During the scenes that Max has his costume the audience can expect to see Max raging and behaving in a disobedient manner.
Although he is not the only rebellious character in this movie as we come to meet the wild things. As the movie progress the audience realises that the seven wild things not only represent different aspects of Max but also those around him such as his sister and mum. In one scene one of the wild things, Carol, is seen destroying the nests homes and in this scene the lighting is not only very dark, gloomy and mysterious but the wild music is loud, ruptured and threatening. Spike Jonze uses this techniques to portray rebellion.
The need for belonging is also a very important aspect in the film as Max feels an immense sense of displacement at the beginning of the film. The lighting in the scenes where Max feels as though he does not belong are very important as it sets the mood and emotion for the audience. In the scene where Max is running away, it is dark, dim and gloomy symbolising emptiness and sorrow in Max’s life. Although it is noted to the audience that the street lights are on and there is also light from the moon in the scene. This is because Spike Jonze preferred natural lighting in the film to emphasise on the realness of Maxs world and to create an unaffected atmosphere for the audience.
The aspect of not belonging is also seen through two wild things, Max and Carol, as the audience observes their body language and facial expressions throughout the movie. A scene in particular which portrays the sense of not belonging is when Carol argues with KW causing rupture between them and following this we see Carol’s body language showing distress through his droopy shoulders and low-spirited facial expressions. The facial expression of the wild things are in fact one of the only animated features of the film and this was only done so as to create a more realistic effect for the audience, this is another technique used by Spike Jonze to explore aspects of coming of age.
Jonze also uses the power of film brilliantly to portray desire for power. Throughout the movie, Max is seen out to seek control and power in his life. However due to this desire Max becomes quite disrespectful as he decides that he does not want to be ordered around by his mother but instead chooses to order her around. Throughout the film Jonze keeps the camera fairly at Max’s eye-level so that we watch the film in his perspective and so due to his height he doesn’t seem very authoritative. So to feel and be seen as superior Max is seen climbing onto a kitchen bench top in one scene as he yells to his mother “Feed me woman!”
And so observing these features I personally believe that what Spike Jonze has created is indeed very impressive. Although the movie isn’t what you expect in typical childrens movies in terms of fun, bright colours and a sappy feel good ending to keep the kids happy,