fRAntic Fathers: Laocoon and Gary What’shisnamenow?

Morris – Fuller – Fuller – Morris….I keep mixing up the surname of the father character played by Richard Armitage in Into the Storm.  It doesn’t really matter anyway…it is completely immaterial to the unfolding action.


This film, which is not long on character development, did a pretty decent job of illustrating Gary’s single minded determination to protect his children, especially his lost son Donny, in the face of waves of destructive funnel clouds.  My son even pointed it out as one of the more successful character devices.  Specifically noting that it was successful because it was how a parent would naturally react to the situation of a lost and endangered child.

Out of high water Source

Out of high water

It’s a highly dramatic moment…a moment full of emotion as a frantic father is reunited with both of his sons.  It reminded me rather distinctly of famous Hellenistic depiction of a father and his sons.

Laocoon and his sons Source

Laocoon and his sons

Laocoon was a Trojan priest and seer who warned his people against accepting the gift of the “Trojan Horse” from the enemy Greeks (“Beware of Greeks bearing gifts,” and all comes from this story.)  The ancient sources differ in the details of how Laocoon got to the point depicted above, but no one differs on how it ends up.  One or another god was greatly angered with Laocoon and send a massive serpent to do him in.  This sculptural group, which Pliny the Elder attributed to the Rhodian sculptors Agesandor, Athenodoros and Polydoros, exhibits all the dramatic baroque glory of the late Hellentisic period.  (It dates to the 1st century BC/AD)  The viewer can almost feel Laocoon and his sons as they writhe and struggle against the twining, twisting danger of the serpent.  The piece as a whole is one of the hallmarks of the theatrical impact of the Hellenistic style, but it is the head of Laocoon particularly moving to me.

Laocoon Detail Source

Laocoon Detail

His struggle is clear in the contorted features of his face…wildly tousled hair and beard, open mouth, flaring nostrils, furrowed brow all emotionally revealing.  Without their painted detail, it’s hard to say what his eyes convey.  Could he be looking skyward, imploring the intervention of one of the gods of Olympus?  Maybe, but if so, it was in vain.

Detail of above

Detail of Gary Mor..ah Fuller from above

I’ve often been struck by the level of emotion that Richard Armitage is able to convey simply through facial expressions, and his expression as Gary gratefully clasps his rescued son is another example of that.  I found it reminiscent of that of Laocoon, if for different reasons.  Where Laocoon’s impending doom is etched upon his face, Gary’s ultimate relief in the safety of his sons is equally evocative on his.

6 comments on “fRAntic Fathers: Laocoon and Gary What’shisnamenow?

  1. guylty says:

    This is a piece of sculpture that has always fascinated me – from early sightings in a history text book in school. The pain and anguish of the depicted figures is just so palpable – amazing how loudly stone can speak. There is only one thing that amuses me to the day – the fact that Laocoon’s sons are sculpted to look like grown men, but are carved smaller in size. To depict that they are younger? It seems like an incongruity to me, medieval (ok, or pre-Renaissance) as the Greeks were so much more advanced than the artists of the middle ages. Or maybe I am wrong and the two sons are not men but boys?

    • obscura says:

      I’ve always read them to be boys…the Greeks clearly were capable of depicting children as children, but they almost never do. I can think of a few examples, but it is really common to see them depicted as smaller scale adults.

  2. jazzbaby1 says:

    This is one of my favorite sculptures, glad you used it!

  3. Servetus says:

    et dona ferentes. I LOVE this parallel.

    • obscura says:

      That moment was really powerful for me…I think there is something about his hand on the boy’s head, tucking him into his shoulder…sheltering him. Direct hit to soft bits!

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