Captain Fantastic, not to be confused with Captain America or any of the other superhero films, stars Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn from the Lord of the Rings) and tells the story of a husband and wife who have left the modern world behind and raise their children deep in the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest. There they create a little utopia for themselves, teaching the children how to hunt and survive in the wild, as well as educating them from the likes of Plato to Noam Chomsky.
When tragedy strikes, the father is forced to take his children and enter the modern world. The film follows them as the children experience the culture shock of modernity and question whether a life isolated in the wild is really what they want. The film has received strong reviews since its release and uses a mix of humour and emotion to expertly balance the themes and ideas presented to the audience. The film highlights the absurdities and hypocrisies of modern life whilst at the same time examining if the father’s utopia is really what’s right for his children. Ultimately it’s up for the viewer to make their own mind up.
But what’s this all got to do with books? You came to For Reading Addicts for literature, not films! After the credits rolled on Captain Fantastic, I felt the same feeling I get when I finish a really good book. The sort of book that makes you think and explore ideas you hadn’t before. It’s a film that has something to say and encourages viewers to draw their own conclusions. Days later I still found myself reflecting on the characters and themes, the same way I usually do after finishing a great book like Moby Dick or Don Quixote.
The film also touches upon literature several times. Living in the wilderness without electricity means that the children must rely on books for both education and entertainment. For education they read the likes of Plato’s Republic and Noam Chomsky’s Who Rules the World? For entertainment they read George Elliot’s Middlemarch and Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s The Brother Karamazov. Instead of celebrating Jesus’ birthday with Christmas, the family celebrates Chomsky’s birthday with Noam Chomsky day. Captain Fantastic may be a film, but it’s a film that really seems to have literature in its foundations. In fact, when Viggo first got the role, the film’s director gave him a list of books to read to help understand his character.
One scene in particular that shines is when the Viggo’s character finds his teenage daughter reading Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita. When asked her thoughts on the novel, the daughter gives a very insightful view on the book and perfectly captures why a book with such controversial themes manages to captivate readers. As the daughter says, the main character is essentially a child molester but, because the book is written from his perspective, you can’t help but empathise with him. You come to realise how intense his love for Lolita is and you both hate and pity him. It also doesn’t hurt that Nabokov’s writing is so incredibly beautiful. It’s scenes like this that elevate the movie from being just another popcorn flick to something much more.
Like a great book, Captain Fantastic sticks with you long after it’s over and will have you thinking on it late at night. I would highly recommend any book lovers go check it out for themselves. Catch it now while it’s still in cinemas.