Recently I went and saw the movie Captain Fantastic at a local theatre here in Victoria, BC. It was a drama with funny moments sprinkled throughout it as we follow the adventures of Ben (played by Viggo Mortenson) and his family after the passing of his wife. In particular, I enjoyed the spotlight on books that came with the viewing experience – although I admit to not being quite as immersed in the literary world as the family in this film! I’m also not living off the grid like this family.
Ben, Books & Family Life
In Captain Fantastic, Ben has a unique vision of parenting, to put it mildly. He and his six kids live in the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest, where he regularly puts them through tough physical and intellectual challenges as his form of education. Books are a huge part of this homemade curriculum; he assigns books to each of the children and asks them to present analyses to him of what they read as a way to strengthen their critical thinking skills.
The kids are growing up talking about the evils of Marxism one moment and hunting for their next meal the next moment. Now this is an interesting take on homeschooling. Oh, and, rather than celebrating Christmas, the family celebrates Noam Chomsky Day instead. This was not my childhood of trying to escape gym classes (awkward, skinny me) and I don’t recall learning anything about Marxism until I was a young adult.
Books in Captain Fantastic
As I watched the movie, I couldn’t help but get excited about all of the books being mentioned in the movie. I am such a bookworm – and proud of it! As I left the theatre, I commented to my group that I wanted to read some of the books mentioned and also research about outdoor life. Am I the only one who likes doing research out there or do you enjoy learning too? Just curious about you blog readers.
There are many books the children read as Ben drives them around in a bus called “Steve” (the bus is also where they live). There are shelves of books inside, and many of them are mentioned throughout the movie. The kids are reading advanced books that include:
- Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond
- Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
- Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life by George Eliot
- The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
More about Literature and Captain Fantastic
In doing research (woohoo!) for this blog post, I discovered that actor Mortenson writes poetry and also owns his own publishing company called Perceval Press. He composes music too. So, he is a creative.
Also, the writer and director of Captain Fantastic is Matt Ross, whose name might sound familiar if you are a fan of American Horror Story. I’m not a horror fan and instead take under the blanket like it is my long-awaited home during any scenes that are slightly scary.
Ok, back to the movie. Captain Fantastic is one heck of an offbeat movie. But it had heartwarming moments and did make me laugh. It also horrified me in parts too! It had some good reminders too about how wonderful living simply can be… including the moment when Ben and his kids turn down the opportunity to stay in a relative’s basement overnight as they want to spend the night instead sleeping under the stars. They really should bring their books with them, though.
The problem here, of course, is that not everything can be taught in a book. In fact, the oldest son Bodevan says to his dad at one point in the movie, “Unless it comes in a book I don’t know anything!” Aha, there is a difference between being book smart and street smart. Bodevan, for example, lacks the social understanding of how to act toward girls, as shown in a few of the scenes.
Could you live in the ways described here? Also, have you read any of the books listed above? I have not read any of them… yet.
©2016 Christy Birmingham