The Moon controls the tides, and the threat of water rising always looms large in The Bathtub, the name that locals who populate Benh Zeitlin’s “Beasts of the Southern Wild” affectionately call home.
Six-year-old Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis) and Wink, her single-parent father (Dwight Henry), live in this impoverished watery community in the far reaches of southern Louisiana. Hush Puppy says her mother “swam away” and this absence of a maternal caregiver may have been the spark that impels her to care for all living things – she describes them as “hearts beatin’ and squirtin’”– that live in or around their shack.
Dad, in failing health while tending to Hushpuppy as best he can, is determined to instill a sense of Saturnine self-sufficiency in his daughter. Her spitfire responses to authority include blow torching a stove into producing a flame, cooking up a combo of grease and pet food, and lighting her own domicile on fire so she can live under the same roof as her father.
Eventually it all comes down to a conflation of raging floods, loss of home, emotional nurture and physical sustenance – all of which are the bailiwick of the Moon. Despite their best efforts to stay put, members of the community are taken to a shelter. Wink, growing more ill by the day, wants no part of bureaucratically administered care and takes his band of insurgents back to The Bathtub.
In the end, Hushpuppy has experienced both an initiation into the Feminine through a similarly water-bound mother-figure, and an awe-inspiring face-off with mythical devouring beasts – the Moon also rules the past. With her belief in the interrelatedness of life – and newly found strength and determination – in the end she’s able to shift generational gears and become her father’s caregiver. It doesn’t get more inspirationally lunar than this, with tiny Wallis as powerful high priestess.
Astrology Film Rating: ☽ (Moon)