October 17, 2009
I saw Where the Wild Things Are today: it's a movie for adults about what it felt like to be a kid—a deeply considered interpretation of the book, beautifully rendered, but not a terribly good adaptation. There's a huge distinction in my mind between interpretation, which I see as someone's distinct vision of an original work, and adaptation which is a more neutral transformation of work from one medium to another, one that allows space for you to project your own interpretation. Of course a true adaptation of this book is impossible, so a strong interpretation was the way to go and in virtually every frame of this film you are reminded that this is Jonze/Eggers' Wild Things, rather than Maurice Sendak's Wild Things.
I've been asked if I'll take my kids to the movie. I don't think I will. Raul Andres who is almost 5 has a particularly deep love of the book. I'm pretty sure for him the book is about the joy of rebellion, the power of imagination, and the love of home whereas large sections of the movie are about dread, loneliness, and the inevitable messy consequences of things. These emotions are large parts of every childhood, but for me (and I think for my son), these were not the emotions stirred by this particular book. If I were to take Raul Andres to the movie, I'm almost sure he would be scared by the film but love it anyway. Still, I would hate to have the Jonze interpretation of the story overwhelm the one he has in his head. That's the danger of movies for children. They can obliterate narratives which are still being formed. So I'll wait a few years for Wild Things to become his own. I hope by waiting his ultimate enjoyment of someone else's love for this book made real will only deepen.