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“Captain Fantastic”: how to identify that a film is ideological

The work of art serves to make the human experience communicable and meaningful. Without narrative forms and paradigms, our experiences would fragment chaotically, as if we could never express our fundamental dramas; and our words had no relation to life, scattered between ignoble frivolity and pedantic verbalisms. Monteiro Lobato is right to say: “We only understand the abstract when there is concrete material in memory.” He outlines the value of the formation of the imaginary: the wealth of elevating existential experiences to general concepts and returning them to the world of life. However, there are artistic productions that get lost in stereotypes and ideologies, by which they fail to communicate experience with reality and corrupt our imagination and aesthetic sense. “Captain Fantastic”, a film by 2016, available on Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, is part of one of these ideological movements.

Before analyzing it, I anticipate the criticisms I get: the revolutionaries say that I call the art that I simply disagree with ideological. Far from it, especially since it is only possible to disagree with ideas, as for the narratives, they are believable or unlikely – not true or false. And the problem with ideologies is exactly this – implausibility. Ideology replaces reality with idea: it makes discourse pure construction of the mind.

This is clearly observable in gender ideology. The ideologues propose the rupture between sex (material reality) and gender (social construction). “Captain Fantastic” uses the same tactic: the speech made to cover up reality instead of elucidating it. For example: in order to suggest that the revolutionary spirit makes a man healthy, while the acceptance of capitalism destroys his body and soul, liberal characters become obese, while anarchists/socialists are all actors in body. athletic. The impression that forms on the soul is unlikely because there are as many thin and healthy liberal individuals as Karl Marx himself was fat; and it causes a rupture with the unity of the film itself, since after the scene thin capitalists reappear, to the director’s inattention.

Rites of Passage

This artistic sin is regrettable considering that “Captain Fantastic” had the potential to be a great movie. It lacks in form, but has good content. It is even part of a deep human drama, namely: the choice to raise a large family, in the wild, with excellent physical and intellectual education.

The father — Ben — part of the pedagogy of Plato: “Education begins with music for the soul and gymnastics for the body.” While art opens the mind to the highest human qualities, physical exercise gives strength to realize them. Without gymnastics, the personality would be effeminate; and without poetry, brute. On the other hand, public education, from which Ben flees, transforms culture into an instrument of the State; deprives young people of reading the classics, as if they should only read boring manuals, in order to pass academic tests and not relevant to life.

Ben also criticizes the lack of rites of Modernity. This leaves the young man not knowing his place in the cosmos. No wonder we are a generation of countless eternal teenagers, nihilists and frustrated existentialists. There is a lack of a rite of passage that signals: “Now you are responsible for yourself, for your own actions or their consequences; must have emotional and psychological maturity, self-knowledge and self-respect. The time has come to have your self-support; of being an adult, mature, responsible.” Ben follows the ancient peoples: he performs a ritual with the oldest boy, who must perform a large animal and then hear from the old man: “Today the boy died. In his place is a man.”

Displaced from real life

Does it look like they have a perfect life? It just seems. Soon they receive the news that the mother – who had returned to the city in order to deal with psychological problems – had ended her own life. Maternal suicide dramatizes that isolation in nature does not cure all pain: depression, anxiety, existential emptiness. Philosopher Eric Voegelin explains this drama very well: “The attempt to find peace only by taking refuge in the solitude of the sea or the mountains is a vulgar fantasy, because the only possible and effective refuge is the refuge in the intimacy of the well-ordered soul. ”

Behold, the family needs to return to civilization and, towards the mother’s wake, the children measure how displaced they are from real life. They know how to talk about the classics and survive in the forests, but they understand nothing about human differences and ambiguities in society. For example, the eldest son — Bodevan — falls in love, but does not know how to approach a woman. He talks to the one he wants as if he were the Prince before the Princess. He asks her to marry him, right after the first kiss, with quixotic statements.

The son needed to adapt his family ideals, instilled by his father, with his social experience, which would only be possible through contact with other people. Socialization and experimentation with the new serve to free us from the puerile habit of judging the model of life that is different from ours as immediately inferior. As much as there is a superior philosophy, the provisional suspension of judgment is fundamental to freeing us from provincialism – the narrow-mindedness resulting from the lack of contact with other ways of thinking – and to evaluating not only what you think of others, but also the what they think of you. The agitation of the world forms the human character.

Ethics of intention

However, restricted to living with the father, the children never had the opportunity to realize that they were educated according to the ethics of intention, rather than the ethics of responsibility. This is the concept of sociologist Max Weber that underlies revolutionary morality, which justifies its evil deeds by the nobility of intention. For example: the French Revolution guillotined a crowd without shame and justified these deaths by the principles of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. The same Ben does when asking his children to steal food from the supermarket, justifying the robbery in the style of Márcia Tiburi: “Capitalists will continue to get rich selling their goods, why not make a historical reparation?”

It is terrible how these men idealize trickery, vice and crime. They think that bandits are essentially good or at least victims of society, while the police are essentially bad or at least oppressors by the state. In the film, these ideals are only questioned when the children meet their maternal grandfather. This one shows how Ben’s anarchic upbringing is turning his children into militants capable of justifying theft, risking their own lives in the dangers of the forest, and going through life without knowing other people. The father reassesses his behavior when he sees one of his daughters — Vespyr — fall off the roof during one of his “missions”, which could have cost him leg movements.

After the accident , the family returns to civilization, through a partial adaptation. For the film’s message is not that there are good things about liberalism, but that the militant must not remain isolated. He needs to change the system from within the system itself, which is less risky and more integrative. So his noble ideals, never questioned, will not put his own life at risk, nor will they be limited to his family. Behold, the son, radically smarter and stronger than all liberals, goes to university and all the viewers hear: “Power to the people, defy the rules!”

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