It’s a Bookish World with Captain Fantastic

Ben and family in the woods

Part of the cast of Captain Fantastic. I see books in one box!

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

Bo Says These Words to Father Ben

A Quote from Bodevan (to Ben) in 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

 

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78 thoughts on “It’s a Bookish World with Captain Fantastic

  1. markbialczak

    Yay, books. As the communications specialist at the Liverpool Public Library, I cheer you for this one, Christy. Heck, I cheer you for the review regardless. I want to catch this movie when it comes to our MediaBank on DVD. 🙂

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    1. Christy B Post author

      I would be interested in reading your review on this movie, Mark! The movie reviews are your speciality so I’m glad to hear I did a good job by your standards. Wishing you a wonderful rest of your day!

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  2. Aquileana

    Howdy Christy!…. Nice spotlight and will keep this movie in mind… I am adding a funny quote to accompany your interesting review: “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.” ( Groucho Marx). 😀 Ha!… Have a very nice week!. Love. Aquileana 🙂

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  3. Bun Karyudo

    I read “Middlemarch” at some point during my education, although I can’t remember exactly when. The thrill for me, though, was finding “Guns, Germs and Steel” on the list. This book is one of my two absolute favorites. (The other is Carl Sagan’s “The Demon-Haunted World.”) 🙂

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  4. vivachange77

    Captain Fantastic was one of my two favorirte movies this summer. The other was Hunt For the Wildepeople. I loved their off-the-gridness. I could not live like that permanently but I enjoyed one week a summer for several years canoeing and camping in the Algonquin National Park in Canada. I liked living “naturally.”

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  5. Sue Dreamwalker

    What a wonderful Description you have given Christy of that film.. You have made me want to keep an eye out for in the cinema.
    This upbringing may seem extreme but what life skills these children are learning.. Sometimes I wish I could retreat within the woods and live like that, lol, but I know my limits haha.. And would probably not last a week. 🙂
    But I do think that education while teaching the 3 Rs should include within their curriculum Earth Skills.. Meaning they should teach about nature, respecting all things living.. Learning how to grow and produce food, how to survive.. Basics like cooking, which we were taught in school and how to prepare meats, and budget along with sewing skills, we made dresses in school and learnt how to upholster and make chair covers and stitches like smocking, and Embroidery

    I have known city children not ever having been to the countryside and see a cow or sheep.. And thinking that chicken always came wrapped in plastic.

    I have not read any of the books on that list either..

    Great Post and loved the provided clip.. Its on my list to go see if it comes to the UK
    Wonderful post
    Love and Hugs Christy..
    Sue xxx ❤

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    1. Christy B Post author

      Hi Sue, how lovely to hear from you! I understand what you mean about sometimes wanting to head into the woods.. Only I would be sure to take a few books for quiet reading time there (wink wink, my to-read list is always growing). Oh I love what you wrote about “Earth Skills” – yes! These skills are so useful when graduating school and living independently in the “real world.” If you do see the movie, let me know your thoughts. I am sure it would inspire a post from you at your blog and that’s reason to smile 🙂 HUGS xx

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  6. Henry Chamberlain

    I’ve read The Brothers Karamazov and I can see that as a maybe for precocious young adults. I’ve read Lolita and that has got to be joke as far as reading for kids. Guns, Germs and Steel is sort of a maybe. Middlemarch, a distant maybe.

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  7. Ste J

    Guns, Germs and Steel is a good read, very informative and in my opinion the best of Diamond’s books, I have yet to read Brothers but it promises to be an epic read. I quite like this curriculum of high drama and literature, it would have been awesome to do that but not the hunting, I like my food all packed up to begin with.

    Thanks for the clip, it’s probably yet to come on in the UK but it will be on the list of things to do.

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    1. Christy B Post author

      Hello my friend, I would be interested in knowing your thoughts on the film if you do see it. You are the second person on this post to comment on the quality of the book Guns, Germs and Steel. It is a rainy day today so it will make for good reading soon.

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  8. Dalo 2013

    What a great treat you bring with this post ~ Mortenson is an incredible talent/artist, so I can imagine him being a perfect fit for this role. I’d really like to think I could live this way, but as I get older, I think the reality is I like to visit this way of life, but I am too spoiled to give up the “silly” luxuries of technology and modern life…still…

    Wonderful review and I look forward to watching this movie after your review 🙂

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    1. Christy B Post author

      Thank you for the nice words 🙂 I do like the ability to go online too – we wouldn’t be able to blog out in the forest if we lived like in the movie.. so that wouldn’t be fair to anyone hehe 🙂

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  9. Kirt D Tisdale

    Great review…now you have peaked my interest on the movie. I’m an avid reader, but confess I have not read any of the books mentioned. Finally…to live like that…love the Pacific Northwest, but also like creature comforts! best to you!!

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  10. Dee

    I am a lover of books and believe you can learn almost anything about life by reading. This seems to be the theme of the movie. I think Viggo is a great actor and does a great job of portraying this character. I am not sure I could live exactly as they do but simple or frugal living would be wonderful. I have not seen the movie but the trailer gives a good picture of it in general. That bus is something else! Thanks for the great review.

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    1. Christy B Post author

      Hi sweetie! How wonderful to see you here – it makes me smile 🙂 Viggo is great in the role, for sure. I am all for simple living but admit to wanting to have my computer by my side… So I understand what you mean about wanting to have a bit of the movie’s lifestyle but not all of it. Talk again soon!

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  11. neversremedy

    As a liberal-leaning homeschooling parent, I greatly enjoyed this film. I also enjoyed it as someone whose mother has died, and as someone who’s failed their kids more than once, made mistakes, and is a flawed human being.

    I, too, am on a search for the books mentioned that I hadn’t read. In case you’re interested, here are the books Viggo Mortensen was asked to read to get into his role:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/19/t-magazine/entertainment/viggo-mortensen-captain-fantastic-reading-list.html

    Some of these books are out of print (and not at my extensive library, I’m sad to say), but you can get a good idea of what types of books to read. Just don’t forget The Joy of Sex! “It has pictures.” 😉

    Glad to know I’m not the only one obsessing over the literary references, and here I am not having made much of a dent in the Gilmore GIrls literary list!

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    1. neversremedy

      Oh! Also in the movie are: Howard Zinn’s The Peoples’ History of the United States, Brian Greene’s The Elegant Univers, and Lies My Teacher Told Me by James Lowen, If you’re not well-versed in Noam Chomsky, there’s a book called The Essential Chomsky that might offer a crash course.

      And as someone with a chronic illness requiring access to running water, I can’t ever live in such an extreme situation, nor would i want to. I’d be happier living in their farm (with internet; I’m a writer).

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      1. Christy B Post author

        How wonderful to read about the other book titles in the film and to know I’m not alone in trying to get more out of Captain Fantastic! It’s quite the movie and really intrigued me. Awesome to “meet” you here and YES I’ll check out that link to find out what Viggo read to get into character for the film. Talk again soon!

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