Love and loneliness in Moonrise Kingdom

maureen

 

SPOILER WARNING:

Sam and Suzy are both social misfits who feel alone and apart from other people. They meet at a church production of Benjamin Britten’s Noye’s Fludde, an opera about Noah’s Ark, and make an immediate connection. Sam is only on the island for scout camp so they become pen pals. After a year’s correspondence they meet again and run away together when Sam returns for camp. As a huge storm approaches everyone pursues them to bring them back.

Moonlight Kingdom’s director and co-writer Wes Anderson’s storytelling involves attention to detail. Music, sets, and props all support the script in telling the story and communicating theme. Even the name of the town, New Penzance, is carefully chosen. The opera The Pirates of Penzance is about an orphan boy who falls in love at first sight.

Sam and Suzy carry with them an assortment of items that communicate what they need and want. Sam carries his art supplies and survival gear. Suzy carries books, music, and a kitten. She seeks adventure but shows up for it in Sunday school shoes. Sam is prepared for adventure, and is well versed in survival, but seeks connection and belonging. The pin Sam wears on his scout uniform, his mother’s pin, connects him to someone to whom he once belonged.

The idea of loneliness and separation is powerfully visual in the sets and blocking (proximity of characters to one another on the set). At the scout camp each boy sleeps in a separate tent placed far apart. The Scoutmaster is frequently seen sitting alone speaking into a tape recorder. The scouts become a community in the closeness of the little tree house high above the sprawling camp ground.

The Sheriff is the lone cop on the island, spending his days driving around alone in his police car and his nights sleeping alone in a bleak trailer. Suzy’s parents, the Bishops, sleep in twin beds. Scenes of the family often place the kids and adults in separate rooms in their huge house. In contrast Sam and Suzy move across the big meadow toward one another, and later jump from separate shores and meet in the middle of the little channel near their beach refuge, which has a cozy, enclosed feeling.

The adults are fraught with loneliness too, but are trying to manage by ordering their lives and doing their best. While Suzy is reading adventure stories aloud, rules and procedures are spouted off by lawyers, scoutmasters, policemen, and social services. Sam’s imagination is awakened by a map of the island that adults simply use for reference and measurement. It’s as if they’ve given up on feeling connected or adventurous and settle for feeling safe and in control. As Laura Bishop says, “It’s not enough.”

Sometime between childhood and adolescence the realization comes that we are each alone. That life hurts. That people will betray us. We become aware that big, overwhelming events beyond our control will pummel us like storms. We seek out soul mates, friends, lovers, and groups that help us feel that we belong. We keep doing this the rest of our lives – in marriages, in families, in friendships, and in communities. Love is Suzy and Sam’s refuge from this metaphorical storm of loneliness.

Just like the summer before, the church is performing Noye’s Fludde, but cancels the performance to become a shelter from actual flooding. Everyone crowds into the church together. The church becomes the setting for the story’s climax and resolution.

Isn’t that what the church should be: a gathering where nobody has to be alone, a shelter in a storm, a catalyst for friendships, soul mates and marriages, a celebration of creation and creativity, a community where rescues happen, a place where stories climax and resolve?  Shouldn’t great adventures begin and end in God’s house?


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