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In Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom, young protagonist Sam is being chased by a band of Khaki Scouts, and they are about to catch him when he stops atop a cairn in "lightning field" and is struck by lightning.

A moment later, he awakens, surrounded by friends. The pursuing Khaki scouts are not there.

What happened? The darkest theory is that everything from that point on in the film is a fantasy, and that Sam is dead. There is some evidence that this may be the case, but nothing conclusive. (If this is what Anderson had in mind, then the end is something like the end of Fanny & Alexander, which has a similar moment of disaster followed by an almost magical resolution of all difficulties, sometimes interpreted as the death of the title characters).

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Intriguing question. I noticed the movie's tone took a turn to the fantastic at just about that point... the scoutmaster's leap comes to mind. Anyway, wish I could watch the lightning scene again... –  Shiz Z. Jul 23 '12 at 4:06
    
Good question, but it's kind of a crappy end to the story if he's just struck by lightning at that point. Interesting to know the answer. –  Django Reinhardt Nov 18 '12 at 18:51

1 Answer 1

In a fascinating article for Slate, Forrest Wickman explains that this film (like others of Anderson's before this, notably Rushmore and Bottle Rocket) was influenced by Anderson's love of Peanuts and the work of Peanuts director Bill Melendez. (The dog in the film is even named Snoopy.) You are in a fantasy world from the beginning, but perhaps you just don't realize it until the lightning scene. Of Moonrise Kingdom, Wickman says:

Some of its sequences are remarkably cartoonish. When one character is struck by lightning, he looks more like he was hit by Acme dynamite: His face is blackened with soot, and he seems otherwise unharmed. And the scouts aren’t Boy Scouts, they’re Khaki Scouts, a fictional takeoff that’s reminiscent of Snoopy’s Beagle Scouts. Anderson has spoken often of his fondness for “self-contained worlds,” a penchant he says comes from Peanuts—and while all of Anderson’s worlds feel self-contained, that’s never more true than here, in which all the action literally takes place on a (fictional) island. The magic of self-contained worlds is also one of the central themes of the film: At the end of the movie we learn that Moonrise Kingdom takes its name from Sam and Suzy’s own secret place, a cove where they try to make a life of their own away from troubles back home.

It’s there that Moonrise’s hero bonds with his own Little Red-Haired Girl: Suzy. Suzy’s outfit, complete with pink dress, white collar, and, in some scenes, a pink cape, is almost identical to that of the Little Red-Haired Girl. Sam’s outfit may not mimic Charlie Brown’s as neatly, but he does wear a lot of yellow—and, as The Star-Ledger’s Stephen Whitty pointed out, at one point he even says, “Rats!”

Wickman draws from the work of film critic Matt Zoller Seitz, who has studied Anderson's work and has created a video commentary called "The Substance of Style - Part 1" about Anderson's work.

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