As dysfunctional family documentaries go, The Wolfpack, a tale of real life Rapunzels, is up there with Grey Gardens and Capturing The Friedmans.
he Wolfpack is the nickname given to seven children who have grown up in isolation. Unlike the children in Greek drama Dogtooth who had the run of the enclosed garden, these six boys and one girl were confined to the cramped apartment on the 16th floor in New York’s Lower East Side. Their Peruvian father, the only one allowed to leave the apartment, mostly stays out of their way but when first time director Crystal Moselle convinces him to engage with the documentary he reveals himself to be a former hippy burnout who mumbles about government-induced social breakdown. He’s ‘a free man’ who doesn’t subscribe to society’s mores – roughly translated as he doesn’t work.
ith little to do, the brothers re-enact their favourite movie scenes – Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, The Dark Knight, Halloween etc – and capture the performances on camcorder (no phones allowed). When he was fifteen, Mukunda, the eldest and most outspoken sibling, escaped the apartment. His venture into the city wearing a Mike Meyers costume earned him an arrest, a stay in an institution, and an evaluation by a therapist, bringing their plight to the attention of the authorities. The excursion is short lived but it’s enough to untangle the boys from their father’s grip. A trip to the beach, where the boys experience sand and the sea for the first time, is a sad and joyous thing.
hat surprises is that the boys are very creative – the costumes and weapons they design are very cool - and they are polite and well spoken. With their long hair, shades and suits, they may be a little kooky – the carefully edited re-enactments ensure that we see the more bizarre footage, like their version for the music video for Baltimora’s Tarzan Boy - but they aren’t squirrelly.
hat is frustrating is when director Crystal Moselle doesn’t push the brothers when they are on the verge of really opening up. One brother, his eyes already glistening with frustration, talks of “…’some things’ you just can’t live with”, but Moselle, who has already put herself into the action by asking questions off camera, strangely leaves this, and other similar moments, be. This was the crux of the whole thing: how do the kids feel about their parents and what damage they have done? What of job prospects? Of romance? What of the father’s theory that these kids have been raised untouched by the evils of society (marathon movie sessions aside) and thus are well-mannered, honest people? This is all touched on but frustratingly not further explored.
ascinating stuff but there was more here.
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