I decided to rewatch Moonrise Kingdom last night and, while I liked it the first time, this time found myself feeling delighted when it ended. And I don’t mean in a thank goodness that’s over sort of way.
I don’t have a lot of new observations. I did notice more details, like Edward Norton’s relationship, potential or actual, with the operator being evident throughout. It was more professionally produced than Melody. That was, after all, a first film. Even the director was more of a TV person when he did Melody. MK is meant to be more surreal than Melody.
MK is about broken people and a broken community. What heals Sam and Suzy is each other. The very worst outcome would have been for them to be barred from ever seeing each other again. Melody and Daniel may have clicked and felt more complete together, but so did Ornshaw and Daniel as friends. They would have survived being apart. What heals the community is Sam and Suzy. It was this viewing of Moonrise Kingdom in which I picked up on the meaning of the orchestra record. It talks about the instruments and sections of the orchestra, then how they are amazing when all put together.
Sam and especially Suzy look and seem more mature than Daniel and Melody, though Melody’s apparent age and maturity varies wildly through the film and even within proximate scenes. I have chalked that up in part to filming taking place over four months combined with a high growth age. Melody and Daniel are implicitly on the cusp between 11 and 12. It’s late in what would be 6th grade in the US. A kid at that point in school would turn 12 between September 1 and August 31. Their story centers around the month of May.
Speaking of the timing of Melody, I’ve seen a photo or screen capture of something that was not in the film that has a date on it. The picture is in the music room. Daniel is holding up his cello and using the bow. Melody is standing to the other side of the cello. Her recorder is in her left hand. Her right hand wraps around the neck of the cello from the back to press the strings. Behind and above them and the cello is a plain black and white poster for Iowa String Quartet, from USA, and at the top it says something about April 1 and at the bottom has lists of performances or whatever. The poster is never apparent in the actual scene. Even the thing you can see the bottom of that could be it doesn’t really look like it’s the same.
So was this the kids playing around and someone captured a photo? Was this an alternate idea for a shoot of the scene? I’d actually bet it’s the latter. It strikes me that they had a script, kind of, but they tried this and that, did many takes, then pieced things together. My favorite part where the narrative fails is in the headmaster’s office. Now, that scene famously took all day anyhow. Mark Lester was so unflappable that he was unable to muster the anger required to yell at the headmaster. Even when he did, he sounded more petulant child than properly angry. Or scornful might be the word, not petulant. They may have used what they had to use. However, when Daniel says “we want to get married,” Melody’s head whips sideways to give him a shocked, startled WTF look that has possible interpretations ranging from “why are you telling him that” to “we want to do what” and it’s not clear. It doesn’t fit with her subsequent vehemence about getting married, though.
The music room scene is almost perfect as it is. I am especially taken by 11 year old Tracy capturing the exact same look of confused consternation I can recall seeing on 14 year old Ella along the way. Having a scene where Rhoda goes in to try out and Melody expresses curiosity about the cello would change the dynamic between the two kids. They would have interacted more. She would have had more of an impression of him, perhaps one that led to her declaring him “quite a nice boy, really.” It would have made his playing the cello a more important plot point. Neither that nor painting make an appearance again. Of course, there’s also a picture out there of Jack Wild in Daniel’s room playing with a paintbrush in a scene that wasn’t used. We are just to take it on faith that there was a lot more interaction between the boys. In reality, the time that passed between the day he fell in love with Melody and the day he said it had been a week ought have been longer. Even if not, there ought have been more time from the boys meeting to Melody becoming a factor, but it implies it was almost immediate.
I digress. Funny how Melody takes over.
My point is that I think Wes Anderson knew exactly what he was going to shoot and how he was going to shoot it. There’s always multiple takes to get things just so, but there was probably less shooting of alternative versions than I perceive there to have been for Melody.
Moonrise Kingdom is explicit in describing the kids as 12. It’s the beginning of September, so for the main events of the film, they would be about to start 7th grade, rather than coming up on the end of 6th grade/first form. I think I originally thought they were more dramatically older than the Melody kids, but that may have been when I was confused by a year, after I had worked it out and then forgotten. There is still innocence, but less so. They hang out in their underwear. It’s not just seen sometimes because of absurdly short dresses. They kiss and then French kiss. She remarks on his resulting erection. She invites him to touch her bra-covered breasts and notes that she expects them to grow. They sleep cuddled up together. We have no reason to believe there’s anything more to it.
All we see in Melody is holding hands, an arm around her, an accidental almost kiss, and a lot of smiles and eye talk. There are images out there in which a kiss on a cheek happens in the context of the film and appears to be something filmed and not used. Otherwise the kisses on cheeks are things like publicity and cover photos. They are still on the innocent side of the cusp of teen years. Daniel wants to paint a nude and has a girlie magazine he was given in support of that, but to him he’s doing it as a painting type he’d not tried before. Jack flashes girlie pictures in class, and the boys know that this is a cool and forbidden thing. The age isn’t completely innocent. The girls are boy crazy to varying degrees, even if they don’t all know much more than it takes more than kissing to bring babies. Melody knows darn well why her mother and granny are freaking out about the man in the raincoat story and is being a wise ass. Jack and Daniel jokingly try to sneak into a girlie show at Trafalgar Square. There’s awareness of forbidden fruits. At the same time, Daniel isn’t thinking “I’d like to get naked with her” when he sees and falls in love with Melody. I know exactly what he felt. Been there. Got the scars and memories. I knew hanky panky existed to some degree or another, but got crushes that were pure emotion. Moonrise Kingdom is just a tiny bit farther along the spectrum.
Daniel and Melody aren’t broken the way Sam and Suzy are, but something is missing from their lives. Daniel found that to some degree in Ornshaw, and arguably more vice-versa, which is why Ornshaw was so hurt by Melody coming along. Imagine Melody. Dad is always working or drinking. Mom makes fun of him. Mom and Granny can be overbearing stick in the muds and de facto absentee by turns. There aren’t siblings. The other kids in the building, to whom Melody seems to relate initially, are not her contemporaries. They are poor but do have a relatively happy and stable family life compared to some. Daniel comes from money but has a horrible helicopter mom who, again, can be absentee when she’s not smothering him. His father is indifferent but at least has the good grace to question his wife’s choices of what she puts Daniel through. They fight a lot and it’s a much less happy home, for all there’s enough money. Ornshaw is an orphan being raised by his grandfather, effectively meaning he cares for the grandfather and is raising himself. Sam is the orphan, in MK, while Suzy obviously is the moneyed side of things but with troubled parents. MK doesn’t set out to be as much about class differences as Melody.
This time around, I made the connection between the reference to electric shock therapy and Sam getting hit by lightning.
The interlocutor was an interesting and potentially annoying addition to Moonrise Kingdom. It helped speed the narrative along and, breaking the forth wall, explained things efficiently at times so they wouldn’t have to be shown or explained any other way. It preserved and even added to the surreal nature of the film.
Melody could have done more with Daniel’s painting. Moonrise Kingdom ran with it. Can you imagine Mrs. Perkins finding a painting by Daniel of her daughter nude in a tub? But then, she might get less excited than Mrs. Latimer would about catching him creating such a painting.
I found the ending satisfying. Melody’s ending is so ambiguous. I love Melody, but it’s Moonrise Kingdom that leaves me believing the kids have a real future together forever. Why does he leave out the window? Is he in fact not supposed to be there? But then, it would be pretty obvious his new foster dad is there to pick him up. As I put it while I was watching MK this time, Melody ends with them running away and you never see the outcome. (Unless you count the day at the seaside as running away.) The meat of Moonrise Kingdom begins with them running away and hijinks ensue. Yeah, it starts well before, when they meet, then become pen pals. I have a soft spot for the pen pal angle. I had a story concept that would incorporate that, based on an actual pen pal. It was my “western hemisphere turns magic” scenario. The hero would go on a quest to meet up with the girl who was his pen pal. On foot, because things like cars wouldn’t work, or would have morphed into creatures. There’s also a lot after they run away. That’s the heart of it, though. Poor, misunderstood kids. Creepy mom, giving 12 year old baby a bath to wash the cooties away.
I forget whatever else I might have meant to say. Melody hijacked Moonrise Kingdom’s post, and time faded my thoughts. I’ve been at this off and on for hours. I did want to note that in my travels yesterday I discovered a move from I think
1974 1973 called Jeremy. It was in relation to Melody stuff, and is an older young romance. High school teens. I haven’t yet watched it, but I pecked at it particularly to see the ballet scene where he sees the girl for the first time and goes all special needs. I related rather painfully, but it’s funny how much like Melody that was. Then there’s the fact he plays cello. But it’s an arts high school, so it’s natural that they have those things. Having read Wikipedia about it, I know that she is new to the school, as Daniel is to the school in Melody. I know the whole thing starts and ends in about a month before she moves away again. I know the relationship gets intense and consummated. I might have seen it along the line when I was younger, and just not had it register the way it might now. I’d have related more to seeing Melody at or before that age. Actually, that’s a difference between Melody and Moonrise kingdom. If I’d seen MK when I was 10-12, I’d have seen it as fantasy and taken away an entirely different impression. If I’d seen Melody when I was 10-12, I’d have realized I was normal and seen it as something of inspiration and instruction. Speaking of alt history or personal points of departure, if I left absolutely everything the same, but saw Melody in April 1971, my life would have been completely different.
Note that in Jeremy the girl’s name is Susan (Suzy). Her father can’t remember Jeremy’s name and refers to him as Danny. Amused.