Film & Philosophy: What Do Ratatouille and the Communist Manifesto Have in Common?
Updated: May 21
As far as class difference, the capability of the common man, and the use of resources are concerned, the two have much in common.
“The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honoured and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid wage labourers.” - Karl Marx
In other words, under this system of capitalism and control of a dominating class, the profession of an individual is no longer as important as the income provided from this role.
This sentiment is echoed in Ratatouille, as the chefs and workers in Gustavo’s restaurant care more about their position working in a top-rated restaurant, rather than the craft of cooking. Contrary to this, Remy has no interest in the clout that comes from working in the restaurant, he simply wants to cook and create.
This juxtaposition reflects Marx’s intention for writing his manifesto, in that the monetary incentive to work and survive destroys the will to do things we love, and this is a part of system that has abused laborers for centuries.
“The bourgeoisie has subjected the country to the rule of the towns. It has created enormous cities, has greatly increased the urban population as compared with the rural, and has thus rescued a considerable part of the population from the idiocy of rural life.” - Karl Marx
In other words, the thrill of city living is an individual one, where each person can thrive on his or her own talents in big cities, where there is a role for everyone (as opposed to rural areas).
From the start of the film, Ratatouille contrasts mundane and family oriented countrysides with individualistic, overachieving and overwhelming city living. Remy’s struggle to balance his achievements as a chef in Paris with pleasing his father and rat clan show that the bourgeoisie has created such a system in which labor must choose between their craft and future prosperity, or a simple existence meant for survival.
“Masses of labourers, crowded into the factory, are organised like soldiers. As privates of the industrial army they are placed under the command of a perfect hierarchy of officers and sergeants.” - Karl Marx
In other words, a system works best when those within the system are mindless products of consumption and production.
Towards the end of the movie as Ego the critic sits in the restaurant, members of the kitchen staff quit one by one when they discover Remy has held the talent the entire time. Remy instead enlists the help of his rat clan to cook and maintain the kitchen, and places each rat into an organized role under a perfectly run system.
Groups of rats are sent to the produce section to cut vegetables, others to the grille, others to the dishwashing station. Working in tandem as an army underneath Remy’s command, this scene perfectly portrays this system of mass labour and hierarchical control that Marx writes about.
“The feudal system of industry, in which industrial production was monopolized by closed guilds, now no longer sufficed for the growing wants of the new markets.” Karl Marx
In other words, when a monopoly controlled by the borgeous can no longer capitalize on its product, the system put in place will need to grow its market or fail entirely.
When Skinner took control of Gustavo’s rights and name, he began capitalizing on this in any way possible: frozen foods sold in the US, cheap products like tacos or burritos that are mass produced for a large group of consumers. But as Gustavo’s influence began to die down, these products were no longer sufficient in keeping the fortune afloat.
Skinner’s attempts at changing his means of failing capital reflect this notion that markets are fluctuating in their desires, thus the feudal system of industry is ever-changing.