The Wolf­pack

The Wolf­pack, doc­u­men­tary, rated R, Cen­ter for Con­tem­po­rary Arts, 2.5 chiles

Pasatiempo - - PASATIEMPO -

The Wolf­pack is a frus­trat­ing doc­u­men­tary about a fas­ci­nat­ing sub­ject that will prob­a­bly serve as a psy­cho­log­i­cal case study for years to come. The An­gulo chil­dren — six boys and one girl — have lived most of their lives as shut-ins, shel­tered from the world out­side in a four-bed­room apart­ment on New York’s Lower East Side. They rarely ven­ture out­side, and one year, they never left the apart­ment at all. Their fa­ther, Os­car, a Peru­vian-born Hare Kr­ishna acolyte, is abu­sive and pos­si­bly delu­sional. He’s in­stilled his own fears of con­tam­i­na­tion from the out­side world into his chil­dren. Their mother, Su­sanne, ap­pears cowed and beaten, as though the vi­tal­ity has been drained from her. But the chil­dren, par­tic­u­larly the six boys (Visnu, their dis­abled sis­ter, is largely ig­nored), seem full of cu­rios­ity and ex­u­ber­ance. They’ve re­sponded to their forced iso­la­tion by cre­at­ing a cul­ture all their own, based on the more than 5,000 movies they have seen stuck at home be­hind locked doors. Movies are their world and their only ref­er­ence point for life out­side the apart­ment as they ten­ta­tively un­ravel the psy­cho­log­i­cal bonds hold­ing them cap­tive, and even­tu­ally ven­ture onto the streets of New York City.

The boys — Krsna, Ja­gadisa, Mukunda, Bha­ga­van, Narayana, and Govinda — have chris­tened them­selves “the Wolf­pack.” They dress alike in black suits, ties, and dark sun­glasses in im­i­ta­tion of the char­ac­ters in Quentin Tarantino’s film Reser­voir Dogs. They re­write film scripts word for word, make elab­o­rate cos­tumes and props out of ce­real boxes, and re-en­act en­tire movies in their liv­ing room from be­gin­ning to end. This play­act­ing, and be­ing home-schooled by their mother, is their life. Their cre­ative re­sponse to iso­la­tion is the most de­vel­oped as­pect of di­rec­tor Crys­tal Moselle’s fea­ture. The pack’s re­al­ity be­gins to change when Mukunda, at the age of fif­teen, es­capes, end­ing up in a hos­pi­tal for a psy­cho­log­i­cal eval­u­a­tion. With Mukunda’s breach of bound­aries, a seed is sown. Soon, the six broth­ers, all in their teens, de­velop a col­lec­tive will in de­fi­ance of their fa­ther. When they at­tend a movie in a theater for the first time, they’re naively de­lighted that the cost helps pay the ac­tors. The sand at Coney Is­land re­minds them of the desert in Lawrence of Ara­bia.

State­ments made by the chil­dren re­gard­ing their fa­ther sug­gest a more se­vere form of abuse, but Moselle never digs deep enough. The younger chil­dren are mostly voice­less, while Mukunda and Bha­ga­van pro­vide the most in­sight. Still, too much is left un­said. Os­car is in­ter­viewed, but re­mains an ab­stract fig­ure whose mo­ti­va­tions are never fully un­der­stood. There is a sug­ges­tion that the boys’ new lib­er­a­tion leads to free­dom for Os­car and Su­sanne, too. It’s an emo­tional film and an un­de­ni­ably in­trigu­ing fam­ily drama, but the vis­ceral pain em­a­nat­ing from the An­gu­los is mostly un­ex­plored, mak­ing it all feel a lit­tle thin. — Michael Abatemarco

Coney Is­land ba­bies: the An­gulo broth­ers

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