“American Dharma is certainly a story about a man who lives in a strange fantasy world. Early Christianity, John Ford movies, nationalist ideologies…an incoherent mess, in my opinion.” — — Errol Morris, director of American Dharma, an exploration of the mind and ideology of Steve Bannon, during a 2018 Toronto Film Festival q & a.
In other words, Morris is no admirer of former Trump administration svengali Steve Bannon, and so American Dharma casts significant doubt upon Bannon’s overthrow-the-deep-state, hooray-for-the-red-hats bullshit. But at the same time it does a curious thing — it presents Bannon as a half-mythical figure, a man of steel and conviction, tough-minded but thoughtful.
If you have a semi-developed brain and at least some analytical abilities, you’re going to recoil in quiet horror at what Bannon is advocating here, but at the same time you’re going to be half-impressed by the way he comes off as a cinematic figure, as a fellow who’s part of a fraternity of strong, square-jawed honey badgers (including Gregory Peck in Twelve O’Clock High, Alec Guinness in The Bridge on the River Kwai) who don’t give a shit but are determined to get the job done.
Right-wingers may feel conflicted about American Dharma (as I do) but they’re not going to flat-out hate it. Because there’s something faintly (emphasis on the “f” word) attractive about the way Bannon is portrayed.
I agree almost entirely with Michael Moore‘s Fahrenheit 11/9, but American Dharma, troubling as it is, is a more transporting film, certainly in a visual sense.