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‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ is Not Happy and Light But Deep, Restless and Beguiling Like the Marsh

‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ is Not Happy and Light But Deep, Restless and Beguiling Like the Marsh

  • Two women who made this movie come to life are Olivia Newman the director and the stunning cinematographer Polly Morgan.

I had heard about the popularity of Delia Owens’ spectacularly popular book “Where the Crawdads Sing.” It was read and discussed at many book clubs. Everyone gushed and talked about it. I didn’t get a chance to immerse myself in it. I’m not sure why? 

A few weeks ago, when I was seeking quiet and alone time to spring back into resilience, I saw that the movie based on the book was playing in theaters. My friends said it was not as good as the book but I was drawn to it. Like a dragonfly to river weed. I wanted to do it right though so I borrowed the book from the library and plowed my way through it. 

Delia Owens

It was different. Not happy and light. But deep, restless and beguiling like the marsh. Where a young girl Kya is left by her family to fend for herself. It was an amazing biography of a gutsy femme fatale who grows on the marsh in Louisiana like the other crawfish, Junebugs, cranes, owls and wild geese. 

Away from a doting mother and a protective father, Kya learns to approach her needs and desires alone — independent, solitary emotionally detached from human guile and cowardice. She draws her beauty and courage from the wilderness. From the birds’ eggs, feathers, leaves, twigs, birds’ nests, shells and driftwood.

The deep, dark imagery of the film. The sprawling live oaks spreading across the silver screen alive in the hammock of day and night was haunting. The ramshackle cabin in the muddy wilderness, a boat, the old-fashioned stove, makeshift victuals and a fierce survival instinct are key to the story. As is Kya’s introspection and nature study. 

Sheaves and sheaves of watercolor illustrations pave the way for her success as a self-made naturalist. But the two women who made this movie come to life for me were Olivia Newman the director and the stunning cinematographer Polly Morgan, who fought her way to meet the movie maker. She really wanted to shoot this film.

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Both of them had a visual connection and a broad understanding of the theme of this unusual story. Kya is accused of murder. The jury is poised against her. But her life is backlit by her childhood connections and she escapes a sentence. She is free like the light that shines on the backlit white feather. There is so much more to this film than meets the eye. Each frame, with a wide-angle lens, looms large. It offers a real experience of walking into a picture-perfect, watercolor painting. 

Another movie by Polly Morgan shot in a very different style is “The Woman King.” I haven’t watched it yet. But I might catch it soon. For now, I want to watch the gorgeous cinematography of the marsh, after I have circled around the marshlands by my mother’s house at daybreak. Our house in New Bombay is on reclaimed land bordering a large marshy swamp on the Bay. I am sure that she will walk with me. Tall. Fearless. Stepping into the light. Later we will both go for a boat ride and watch the clouds part. Showcasing the horizon where the crawdads sing.

With one foot in Huntsville, Alabama, the other in her birth home India and a heart steeped in humanity, writing is a contemplative practice for Monita Soni. She has published hundreds of poems, movie reviews, book critiques, and essays and contributed to combined literary works. Her two books are “My Light Reflections” and “ Flow through My Heart. You can hear her commentaries on Sundial Writers Corner WLRH 89.3FM and the Princess Theater.

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