December 20, 2017

Watch: How Wes Anderson Uses Age to Define Character

Like a fine wine, some characters get better with age. But do Wes Anderson's?

Wes Anderson is one of today's most influential film directors, demonstrating a stylistic continuity from project to project further exemplified in their cinematography, editing, and production design. The continuity is apparent in the films' narrative themes too.

In a new video from Jack's Movie Reviews, we look at how Anderson handles his characters' journeys, examining the archetypes present in the portrayals of children, adults, and yes, the elderly.

Children

Anderson's films are unique in the way they depict children (and to go further, they way they depict childhood). Occasionally prodigies, the children in his films are "mature, ambitious, and often times take on adult responsibilities." This is where the conflict comes from.

Take Max Fischer from Rushmore, our lead who so badly wants to fit in to his idea of adult society that he isn't true to himself. His journey within the film goes from a childlike view of adulthood to someone who tries to experience what ultimately fulfills him. 

Adults

As often as the children are exceptional, the adults in Anderson's films go the opposite route. They have their "ambition and maturity stripped away," and many of the adult characters, once so full of promise, seem to have "given up on life." This stems from the conflict between childhood and adulthood, between the illusions of youth and the concessions of maturity.

Many of Anderson's protagonists find themselves trapped in an eternal adolescence leading to a halt in maturity

Many of Anderson's protagonists find themselves trapped in an eternal adolescence leading to a halt in maturity, and the purgatory is visualized through the relationship between childhood imagery and adult characters. It's this journey from childhood to an acceptance of adulthood and responsibility that is one of Anderson's main themes (which compliments his obsession with parent/children relationships). 

The Elderly 

Once Anderson's characters reach a certain age, their lives come full circle, and usually to a more healthy and "realistic" place. Freed from the "societal pressures and monotony" that define adulthood, they are able to see what truly matters.

In The Royal Tennenbaums, Royal's journey evolves from unhappy adult (wasting much of his time in selfish pursuits that prompted his children's unhappiness) to someone who realizes what truly matters and, as a result, spends time trying to reconnect with his family.

While there are less elderly characters in Anderson's films, the ones we do see are focused on "making the most of it while they still can," and generally represent a happy medium between the illusions of childhood and the compromises of adulthood.

This video from Jack's Movie Reviews is an insightful look at an aspect of Anderson's filmmaking that often goes ignored, given that he is such an overpowering visual stylist. What are some of your favorite Anderson films and/or characters? Let us know in the comments.      

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December 22, 2017 at 8:12AM

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