Like a lot of you, I grew up with Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are,” and in recent months have been wildly curious about how it might translate to a feature film. In a recent Newsweek interview, director Spike Jonze said that while the studio “thought I was making a children’s film, I thought I was making a film about childhood” — and, having seen the film last week, I think it’s a very accurate description. (I’ll save my full review for next week, but will say this: It’s not really a children’s film, though some children may well enjoy it.)
The Newsweek article is a roundtable with Jonze, co-screenwriter Dave Eggers and the very quotable Sendak. Asked what he would tell parents who were concerned that the “Wild Things” movie may be too scary for their kids, he said, “I would tell them to go to hell. That’s a question I will not tolerate. . . . If they can’t handle it, go home.”
And he offered this fascinating explanation for how the monsters in the book came to be:
The monsters were based on relatives. They came from Europe, and they came on weekends to eat, and my mom had to cook. Three aunts and three uncles who spoke no English, practically. They grabbed you and twisted your face, and they thought that was an affectionate thing to do. And I knew that my mother’s cooking was pretty terrible, and it also took forever, and there was every possibility that they would eat me, or my sister or my brother. We really had a wicked fantasy that they were capable of that. We couldn’t taste any worse than what she was preparing. So that’s who the Wild Things are. They’re foreigners, lost in America, without a language. And children who are petrified of them, and don’t understand that these gestures, these twistings of flesh, are meant to be affectionate. So there you go.