Saturday, July 07, 2012

A Word or Two on Memory 

There was something about Moonrise Kingdom that felt familiar beyond just Wes Anderson's well-established oeuvre. It brought to mind Camp Kildevil and Mint Brook Camp and even CBC television's 1960s series The Forest Rangers. I guess anyone who had been to summer camp would have seen those similarities but it bothered me enough to try and figure out why it felt like that.
“…sweet nostalgia for a time that never was, when what we remember is so much sweeter then how it ever could be”

Cast photo of Moonrise Kingdom, image via Mubi's Daily Notebook

The 1960s CBC series with Gordon Pinsent, The Forest Rangers

Even seeing a still of The Forest Rangers cast you can see how it would be grist for Anderson's mill. A sweet nostalgia for a time that never was, when what we remember is so much sweeter then how it ever could be.

Other moments in the film clearly echo an East Coast sensibility captured in film and art such as Alex Colville's "To Prince Edward Island".

Alex Colville's "To Prince Edward Island", image via Art Country Canada

Suzy in a scene from Moonrise Kingdom

I'm not suggesting Anderson simply lifted what he wanted. I'm saying he did something more than that, by capturing and tapping into our shared memory of what a coastal summer was like, whether we knew we remembered it this way or not. After I felt I'd tracked where the familiarity lay, I then found myself thinking the same thing while watching Bergman's Summer Interlude. This too is the story of two young lovers having an idyllic summer affair. There was something about the rocky Swedish shores that reminded me of the New England coast where Moonrise Kingdom is set. Of course the Bergman film ends bleaker than Anderson's but the tone and feel of the young couple making their paradise in the nearby wilds struck a similar chord.

Marie, as played by the lovely Maj-Britt Nilsson in Bergman's Summer Interlude from 1951

Suzy reconnoiters the beach in Moonrise Kingdom

Bergman's Summer Interlude is set in an archipelago near Stockholm, where Marie's family summers.

Moonrise Kingdom is set on the fictional island of New Penzance.

An early encounter of the young lovers, Marie and Henrik in Summer Interlude

Suzy and Sam let loose and have a private beach party.

Moonrise Kingdom ends more happily and joyfully than Summer Interlude and in a sense it seems a little like something Henrik and Marie could've had if tragedy hadn't struck.

Backstage, an aging Marie is cleverly framed by a device of mirrors, one showing her mentor while her disconsolate lover stands in the doorway.

Suzy first meets Sam backstage at a school performance.

I'm probably making too much of the similarities but it is fun to imagine Anderson had concocted his film after watching The Forest Rangers and Summer Interlude and sought to create a collage of them both.

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