Wes Anderson is one of the most beloved directors in recent history. Maybe it’s his peculiar aesthetic, his symmetric takes, the soundtrack he chooses, or the subtext in the dialog that turn simple details and stories into filmic adventures. Each of the characters is more than what they seem. They all have an underlying story that we sometimes don’t notice until a second or third watch.
Fantastic Mr. Fox was released a few years ago, and despite its acclaim, there are scenes that continue to be a mystery. One of the most controversial is the wolf, which has been described by several critics as one of the most beautiful moments in Anderson’s filmography. This scene is disliked by some who see it as an out-of-place moment that breaks with the rhythm and tone of the feature.
During an interview, Wes Anderson did not hesitate to tell the story about a producer trying to pull some strings to get him to erase that frame from the final cut. Anderson refused by saying, “I’m not cutting it. That scene is the reason why I directed the entire movie.” So what’s all this fuss about the appearance of the wolf in this film?
This film deals with a particular subject: oppressing our wild side. Freud called it the Id. He also translated the combination of unconscious and primitive impulses man attempts to control in order to live in society as the Superego.
The protagonist is introduced during the initial sequence as a daring fox who steals chickens for food. That act symbolizes his Id which he represses when he finds out his wife is pregnant. This then leads to him having a new responsibility, his son, which concludes with the appearance of the Superego.
The issue begins when Mr. Fox succumbs once again to his wild tendency by breaking his promise to stop stealing chickens. Said act leads to the farmers deciding to hunt all the critters who live in the forest with Mr. Fox. So both the protagonist and his neighbors must move underground for safety, since they have been rejected by society.
When his wife questions his actions, the fox responds with, “Because I’m a wild animal.” This leaves a clear understanding that his nature will come up despite his attempts to tame himself.
All the animals in the film are well dressed, speak with a dignity pertinent to royalty, are well read, and are so prudent in most of their actions that we tend to forget these are woodland creatures. As viewers we see them as people aware and strict at following social norms. There are moments when this format breaks up to create fun scenes and little winks to show there is a bit of wildness in them.
When Mr. Fox interacts with other characters, we learn about his phobia towards wolves. When a crucial part of the film shows up, his first contact with the wolf, we know something important is about to happen.
The wolf is described by Mr. Fox as the strongest animal in the world, as well as the most beautiful. This is the only character in the film that does not adhere to the humanized traits of the others. The wolf walks on all fours, is completely naked, and does not say a word during his entire screen presence.
The wolf represents the Id. It’s not a new idea to provide this animal with that meaning. There are several classic fairytales that speak about the creature that was never domesticated. Mr. Fox bumping into the wolf represents a direct confrontation of the main character with his greatest enemy: the idea that he cannot be what he most wants, to be wild.
Mr. Fox attempts to communicate with the wolf unsuccessfully, since he doesn’t even recognize his Latin name. It’s then when the creature shows Mr. Fox through a paw gesture that he cannot stay in the wild. That he needs to follow his path and fight to be happy in suburban life with his family.
At the end of the film we see all the members of the Fox family, along with a couple guests, enjoying a place as artificial as is a supermarket. Mr. Fox begins to make a toast where he enlists the many reasons why everything in the store is beautiful.
“This apple looks fake but at last it has stars and tastes magnificent.” This statement is proof of how his outer persona is artificial yet he has adapted to society’s needs in such a marvelous way while still remaining a basic primitive creature within.
Translated by María Suárez