Director: Mike Nichols
Actors: Alan Arkin, Art Garfunkel, Richard Benjamin
Runtime: 122 min
This anti-war comedy of the absurd attempts to show the defeat of the rational mind in the face of the madness of war.
A squadron of U.S. B-25 bombers is deployed on a small Mediterranean island near Italy. The commander repeatedly increases the number of missions that airmen have to conduct in order to fulfil the conditions to “rotate”, that is to go home. The initial 25 mission goal is increased to 35, and then to 50 etc. so no one survives long enough to rotate. Captain Yossarian is desperate because he sees his friends killed one by one, and tries to be declared insane and therefore unfit for combat.
Enter Catch-22 – a bureaucratic paradox through which, due to contradictory rules, an individual has only one choice, which is pre-determined and cannot be changed. In order for the doctor to declare a soldier insane, the soldier must first consult a doctor with a request to be declared unfit for combat due to insanity, but in this case, the doctor cannot declare him insane because he who seeks to be declared insane cannot really be so. Therefore, there is no way to avoid combat, and since the number of required missions is constantly being increased, death emerges as the only possible outcome. Catch-22 is not a bureaucratic mistake, on the contrary it is a conscious strategy to leave only one choice to the individual – therefore leaving him with no choice and actually taking away his possibility to choose. It’s a metaphor for the political will of the legislator who conducts their intentions simply because they can enforce them.
As Yossarian’s struggle with bureaucracy unfolds, the local mess officer develops a black market corporation and issues its shares to all soldiers in exchange for “unnecessary” items (such as parachutes, blankets, morphine) which he uses to trade. It is a moment when the comedy of the absurd begins to turn into tragedy. When the desire to survive at any cost intersects with the inability to avoid death; when the market takes over with its laws of supply and demand, and its cruel logic that transforms man into a monster, and perverts all human relationships into merchandise, then only powerless despair remains in the devastated individual.
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