Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012) is a first independent film by Benh Zeitlin which has garnered unprecedented accolades at film festivals around the world. The film is set in Louisiana, or more precisely in “the bathtub”, an imaginary bayou cut off from the main land by a levee. Seen through the eyes of Hushpuppy, a six-year-old girl living in a ramshackle house with her father, the fantasy drama is a poetic parable on growing up while daily life in the precarious community reflects the constant struggle between chaos and order in the universe.

The whole universe depends on everything fitting together just right. If one piece busts, even the smallest piece… the entire universe will get busted. (Hushpuppy)

The bathtub

The music plays an integral part in telling the story which is informed by Louisiana’s rich musical landscape. There are strong elements of Cajun music of course with the original version of La danse de Mardi Gras by the Balfa Brothers or the inclusion of “Valse de Balfa” by The Lost Bayou Ramblers in “The Bathtub”:

Once there was a Hushpuppy

What makes the soundtrack really interesting is the fact that director Benh Zeitlin took an active part in scoring the film and co-wrote the music with composer Dan Romer. The end result is a wonderful blend of Southern Americana which stands on its own. The score has received an overwhelming response, so much so that both musicians have been asked to perform the soundtrack live on several occasions at awards ceremonies.

Trying to explain the “sensory impact” of the mythical bayou portrayed in Beasts of the Southern Wild, A.O. Scott of the New-York Times has this nice musical analogy:

Discovering this movie is like stumbling into a bar and encountering a band you’ve never heard of playing a kind of music that you can’t quite identify. Nor can you figure out how the musicians learned to play the way they do, with such fire and mastery. New York Times

Beasts of the southern wild
Beasts of the southern wild (2012)