In “Bless…” Kramer takes a very risky stance as a film director (who needs a solid financial backing) – he offers to the viewers a choice – either to identify with the characters who are similar with them – with the adults of this world, or betray themselves and identify with… the children in a difficult – adolescent age, when our sons and daughters are prone to target their parents with unjustified, from our, adults’, point of view, criticism.

We inherit human past which is full of unsolvable and nasty contradictions, which is very difficult to accept as inevitable (as between generations – between politico-economic system, created by the elder generation and its offshoots) and which create permanently renewed wound of human civilization. Fathers repressed, manipulated and seduced their sons by (fraudulent) ideologies where religious and secular elements were enriching one another. In the wealthy families the military service was an honorable destiny often culminating in courageous death on the battlefield. Even more disastrous was the destiny of the sons from the poor families – they were sacrificed for the gloriously aggrandized personalities of various super-stars – kings, dukes, emperors, generals etc., for the sake of the glorious images of the “our sacred lands”, “our sacred worldview”, or in the name of our collective narcissism’s sensitivity. Kramer’s film represents today’s version of contradiction between the elder and younger generation as between the American parents and the officials at the summer camp for boys on the one side, and boys at the camp who instead of dreaming about and training themselves for building their personal social and financial power and instead of consuming violent video-games and pop-music want to love nature and human beings and contemplate about and understand better human and societal life in the world.

Kramer’s “Bless…” emphasizes that “democracy”, unfortunately, is not alien to the global tradition of sacrificing young people by the war- and money-making decisions of elder males in charge of life. But Kramer is addressing not so much the physical danger of being a young person in a modern society, but the destruction of their souls through repression of their moral idealism which is a precious feature of the young minds and souls. Of course, youthful idealism of a “diffused” love for humanity and the world is always “childish” – “extreme” and “utopian”. To help it develop into a mature and nuanced moral stance it is necessary to create a sophisticated pedagogy, but, as Kramer depicts the social climate in his film, the very necessity to fight for a place in the social hierarchy and for financial success, the situation of modern family when both parents are busy working and the circumstances of children’s education where teachers are more and more reduced to the role of drill masters preparing the schoolkids for tests, make it practically impossible to address the children and the youth’s need to develop their souls, humanity and ontological (as opposite to social) confidence. We see that the officials of the summer camp are only interested in teaching kids competition, machoism and conformism. There is no place in our education today for developing taste for truth as such, if it’s not a technical-scientific one, but truth in the context of life.

The young heroes of the film resist behavioral and mental standardization, rivalrous posture and common identity. In our concept of education – obsession with calculation of one’s personal success is combined with the absence of emotional – democratic individualism. But the young heroes of the film fight for their idealistic moral utopia – liberation of the buffaloes from being slaughtered for the pleasure of those obsessed with guns and killing. They try to liberate themselves from competitive and fighting orientation, for the sake of friendship and care about the world and people.

The film depicts a permanent uneven psychological fight between kids and adults attempting to make from boys cowboys, and it is in tune with awakening of the American people to the necessity of protecting nature from corporate predatoriness and insensitivity to the world. The acting of adult actors and the children is balanced between the style of documentary and fiction films and, simultaneously, expressive and non-sentimental, and always essential, not situational. Kramer’s film becomes more and more exceptional work of art amidst commercially dedicated movies projecting into the audience the movie-makers’ obsession with shocks provided by violent gimmicks, and stimulating in viewers emotional non-sensitivity and cognitive stagnation.

The children in the film have an internal world while adults just react on circumstances which they then try to use for gaining advantage over the situations.

Stanley Kramer  in between shooting of “Bless the Beast and Children” (1971)
Stanley Kramer in between shootings, while making the “Bless the Beast and Children” (1971)

Posted on 4/18/’16 –   Stanley Kramer’s “Bless the Beasts and Children” (1971) – Even Adolescent Idealistic Existential Utopia Is a Moral Dream Which Deserves Pedagogical Nurturing And Forming by Acting-Out Politics