TO: EVOC 501 Dr.
FROM: Phil Fournier
DATE: Friday, October 22, 2004
RE: FA6, Culture and Video
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, 2003, 2 DVD set
Lead Actors: Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany
Director: Peter Weir
Setting: On board an English naval vessel during the French/ English conflict of 1805. Russell Crowe plays captain Jack Aubrey and Paul Bettany plays the ship’s surgeon and also close friend of the captain.
Early on in the film an event takes place in that seems to set the stage for the entire film. During a meal in the captain’s dining room, the captain asks his friend the surgeon to exam two weevils crawling out of a biscuit and pick one. The surgeon plays along and picks the healthier looking of the two. The captain then says to him “don’t you realize you are always supposed to select the lesser of two weevils?” The pun is, of course, on the similarity between the words “weevil” and “evil”. But the statement “the lesser of two evils” seems to captivate the spirit of the film, as the captain as a commander and leader of his crew is continually faced with decisions between saving a man, or saving the ship, pleasing his friend who wants to explore the Galapagos or pursing the enemy ship, the Acheron, and similar tough choices. So the real subject of the film is leadership and the consequences of the lack thereof. One of the young officers on board the ship fails to command the respect of his shipmates, and ends up committing suicide after being accused of being a curse on the voyage.
The movie has a significant amount of blood and gore, which I personally find distasteful, but the dialog and situations make it a fascinating piece of work. Though I cannot say I would recommend the film to my students, as a teacher I believe it is a worthwhile film for anyone in a leadership position. Commanding respect as a teacher is an important part of teaching, and that involves leadership, which is really what this film is about. The making of hard choices or choosing “between the lesser of two weevils” is also a big part of teaching. Where to I spend taxpayer’s money? What topics should I include and which should I leave out? What constitutes a valid reason for making up a missed test? All of these choices and many more will face every instructor and this film takes up the thought processes necessary behind such choices in an insightful and inspiring fashion.