Philosophy through Film: Harold and Maude

I’m taking a class this semester called Philosophy through Film, and one of the assignments is to write a journal entry for each movie we watch.  My previous entries are on Being John MalkovichEternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,  MementoPulp FictionOne Flew Over the Cuckoo’s NestGroundhog Day,  Crimes and Misdemeanors, and the Matrix.  I’ve also written an extracurricular post on The Hunger Games. Maude's Morality

The first thing I have to say about this film is that I disagree with Maude's moral claims.  She takes it upon herself to teach others moral lessons through her criminal actions, but those actions largely overlap with her own personal aesthetic taste and pragmatic needs.  Just because her own views are life-affirming and naturalistic doesn't mean that they take precedence over other people's.  Her methodology implies that anyone would have the right to impose their own personal morality on the world around them.  If this is true, then I prefer to live in a world where things like property ownership are respected, and hope that morality is imposed on her.

Missing Kafka

Apart from that, I do think that the real world would have imposed an institutional morality on Maude significantly prior to the events of the film.  I think it's optimistic about her success in avoiding consequences for her actions to the point of being a plot hole.


Both Harold and Maude use their somewhat extreme worldviews to hide from their own pain.  Neither seem to have integrated the reality of their suffering and angst into their worldview, and as a result neither has a complete experience of life.