The Conformist

The Conformist is about wanting to be "normal", Italian Fascism, homosexuality, and castor oil treatments. Directed by Benardo Bertolucci, this is a disturbing tale that mixes basic issues of human existence, politics, and psychology.

Would you call a fascist normal? Well, they are the extreme of normality, where normal is simply defined as being average. Fascists are so normal that every one of them is completely identical in belief and, to a certain degree, appearance. Do we all want to be normal? We might say no, but most humans do wish to conform, to belong, and to relate. This movie illustrates the perils of such thought.

The conformist who badly desires to be normal, choosing to follow the fascist path during Mussolini's reign in the first part of the 20th century, is the central theme of the movie. As a child, he kills a Mauser-weilding abuser with his own weapon. And now he is confronted with questions about his normality and thus chooses to join the fascist organisation.

To prove himself, on his first mission, he is sent to terminate his ex-professor, who is a anti-fascist. He falls in love with the professor's wife, and this leads to some complications, as the professor's wife shows interest in the conformist's wife.

In the end, the cowardly and conforming nature of our hero is shown as the fascist regime falls. He then encounters his childhood abuser who he thinks he has killed and denounces him as a fascist and blames him for the professor's death. He also turns back on his blind friend who initially got him enrolled in the fascist ranks. After all, being a fascist would no longer be in line with the mainstream after it has collapsed, would it?

There is a tremendous of symbolism in the movie and it would behoove you to go see it, simply to illustrate what happens when you fall prey to a non-thinking sheep-like behaviour. It is comical, because the film itself is outdated, but the wealth of provoking thoughts it contains make up for that. Moral of the story: conformism doesn't pay.

Many of you might know I tend to an anarchistic Utopian philosophy. If one were to draw a line that illustrated the various philosophies one could adopt in a highly simplfied and linear manner, it would look something like this.

             *                                     v
fascism  socialism      "normal"    capitalism   anarchy
                                 republic democracy

By fascism, I refer to a one dicator/many sheep philosophy. By socialism, it is involuntary equal distribution of responsibility/products. By "normal", I mean a mix of socialism and capitalistic democracy. Capitalism is where there is a lot of private control, but a goverment that rules. Anarchy is a capitalist democracy with the absence of a central government, and with reason. Note that the extremes of conformism leads to fascism, and extremes of non-conformism leads to anarchy. Democracy is possible only to the right of socialism (*). It is, however, not one dimensional and can be extended in the y axis.

I'm for somewhere between a democracy and anarchy, but stemmed with reason (v).

Movie ramblings || Ram Samudrala ||