The Open Goldberg Variations

Bach's Goldberg Variations, played by Kimiko Ishizaka

Captain Fantastic (2016) and the Goldberg Variations

Several pieces from the Goldberg Variations are heard in Captain Fantastic during a scene where the father, Ben (Viggo Mortensen), is discussing human sexuality with his daughters.

What's a bordello?

Captain Fantastic: This family loves Bach's Goldberg Variations

Captain Fantastic: This family loves Bach's Goldberg Variations

As a father, Ben fiercely believes in raising smart, independent, and strong children, guided by their own innate curiosity. The scene takes place during the bus ride from the wilderness to civilisation where the family will attempt to give their recently deceased mother a proper burial. The first part of the scene is between Ben and his eldest daughter, Kiera, who is reading Nabakov's “Lolita”.

Ben: What are you reading? Lolita? I didn't assign that book.

Kiera: I'm skipping ahead.

Ben: And?

Kiera: It's “interesting”.

Other children: Interesting. Illegal word! Kiera said “interesting”.

Ben: "Interesting” is a non-word. You know you're supposed to avoid it. Be specific.

Kiera: It's disturbing.

Ben: More specific.

Kiera: Beause it's written from his perspective, you sort of understand and sympathize with him. which is kind of amazing because he's essentially a child molester. But his love for her, it's beautiful. But it's also sort of a trick, because it's so wrong; he's old and he basically rapes her. So, it makes me feel…. I hate him. And somehow I feel sorry for him at the same time.

The conversation becomes really interesting when Ben's youngest daughter, listening in, starts to ask her own questions.

What does rape mean?

Ben: When a person usually a man, forces another person, usually a woman, to have sexual intercourse.

Who's hungry?

Youngest daughter: What's sexual intercourse?

Ben: When a man sticks his penis in a woman's vagina. Everyone keep their eyes peeled for deer.

Youngest daughter: Why would a man stick his penis in a woman's vagina?

Ben: Because it can give them both pleasure. And because the combination of a man's sperm and a woman's egg can create a baby and continue the human race.

Youngest daughter: But that's where she pees…

Ben: Pee comes not from the vagina, but from the urethra.

Clearly, Ben is very dedicated to his chosen pedagogical philosophy. He does seem somewhat uncomfortable with the exchange, though. Less uncomfortable than during the mountain climbing scene earlier in the film, where his son incurs an injury while climbing a sheer cliff!

Here is BWV 988, Variation 25 A 2 Clav.: Adagio from the Goldberg Variations.