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Kardec

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
Kardec Movie Poster Image
Drama on spirituality has some bullying, violence.
  • NR
  • 2019
  • 110 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Explores ideas of spirituality and eternal life in a universal rather than dogmatic sense. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

No positive role models. 

Violence

Two young girls are bullied, chased out of their school by classmates while being called "witches." An angry mob throws rocks through the windows of the house where these two girls live. Characters commit suicide by jumping off a bridge into the river below. 

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Alcohol drink in a study; wine drinking at dinner. No intoxication. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Kardec is a 2019 Brazilian drama in which a 19th century Parisian educator becomes a leading figure in the "Spiritism" movement. Expect some violence, including scenes in which characters commit suicide by jumping off a bridge into the below them. Two young girls with psychic abilities are bullied and chased out of their school by their classmates while being taunted as "witches." An angry mob arrives at the home where these two girls live, and throw rocks at their windows. Some drinking. Based on a true story, the movie addresses spiritual beliefs about the afterlife and the universe that put them in direct conflict with the teachings of the Catholic Church. That said, devout Catholics may take issue with the Catholic Church being presented in the movie in a negative light. 

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What's the story?

It's 1852 in Paris in KARDEC, and Professor Rivail has chosen to retire from the school where he worked as a beloved teacher after the government decrees that Catholic Church doctrine must be taught. At the same time, Rivail witnesses a fad called "spinning tables" in all the restaurants and public spaces, in which people claim to be in contact with spirits that are causing the tables to move. But his life is forever altered when he attends a session with mediums with important messages to deliver to him about his life, his past life, and what happens when we die. When a medium informs Rivail that he was once a druid named Allan Kardec, he adopts this as his nom de plume while he conducts detailed interviews and rigorous experiments with many claiming to be mediums. His findings lead him to adopting the cause of "spiritism," leading to the publication of The Spirits' Book. This book, and Rivail/Kardec's dissemination of Spiritist ideas, puts him in direct conflict with the Catholic Church, and the Church and its followers begin to fight to repress Spiritism, the "table spinning" fad, and Kardec's books. As he faces these setbacks, Kardec learns from the spirits that while these battles are difficult, the inevitable triumph is worth the struggle. 

Is it any good?

This movie is a somewhat fascinating exploration of the theme of spirituality versus dogma. Based on a true story, Kardec follows the trials and tribulations of a professor skeptical of paranormal activity who becomes the leading proponent of "Spiritism" while finding a beautiful message concerning the past, present, future, life, death, and the afterlife that seems to contradict everything the dominant Catholic Church espouses. The acting is very good, and the costumes and sets capture a sense of mid-19th century Paris at a time when Europe was in economic, political, and religious upheaval. 

Where Kardec falls short is in the story itself. Quite a few storylines dead-end or simply fizzle out. For instance, throughout the movie, two shady looking men seem to be following Kardec wherever he goes, but any potential conflict in this situation ends up as something else entirely. Some of the movies' themes don't really get the time they need, but are simply addressed in passing, or shoehorned into a Kardec diatribe before moving on to the next theme. It bogs down what might have otherwise been an excellent movie. Instead, Kardec is good, but not great, and interesting, but inconsistently so. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about movies based on true stories. What would be the challenges in creating a movie based on actual events?

  • How does Kardec address topics such as suicide, bullying, education, poverty, spirituality, and religious belief?

  • While set in the 19th century, in what ways does the movie seem relevant to today?

Movie details

For kids who love dramas

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