A dramatization, in modern theatrical style, of the life and thought of the Viennese-born, Cambridge-educated philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951), whose principal interest was the ...
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A dramatization, in modern theatrical style, of the life and thought of the Viennese-born, Cambridge-educated philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951), whose principal interest was the nature and limits of language. A series of sketches depict the unfolding of his life from boyhood, through the era of the first World War, to his eventual Cambridge professorship and association with Bertrand Russell and John Maynard Keynes. The emphasis in these sketches is on the exposition of the ideas of Wittgenstein, a homosexual, and an intuitive, moody, proud, and perfectionistic thinker generally regarded as a genius. Written by
I was marching through comprehensive viewing of the Greenaway section in our local art video store, and got into an argument with the proprietor. He felt that Greenaway was excessive pretentious and juvenile and suggested this film as `real' intelligent filmmaking. I really wanted to discover a new director, so watched with expectation.
About the actual art of the filmmaking, I can report that this to be completely mundane. The technique is of stationary filming of a staged play with no risk and little imagination.
But the topic has real promise! Wittgenstein is among the dozen most fascinating men of ideas who ever lived. He anticipated the core ideas about logic and language that are commonplace today. But he was profoundly not influential. All these ideas were reinvented by independent means because his explications were so abstruse. I believe them to be necessarily so, and we still don't appreciate the full ambiguities he noted.
This is grand, fascinating stuff, but in this play we get the most trivial inklings of his middle period. How sad.
Independent of the ideas, his life is remarkable. He was rich and gave it away. He absolutely mastered a strain of philosophical thought and was universally celebrated (though not understood). He tossed it away, disclaiming all his ideas and starting over as his own most powerful detractor. And he did this thrice! He went from the protection of the university to hovels and degradation multiple times. Along the way he designed one of the most puzzling houses on the planet. This is great, great stuff.
But this film is motivated by a politico-sexual agenda, so while watering down the great intellectual and physical swings, ascribes them to repressed guilt of his sexuality. Wittgenstein would be appalled, I think, to have his great projects and discipline so debased. In fact, he seemed to have repressed guilt about everything he could conceive, and among these homosexuality was a lesser driver because the environment was so accepting, even encouraging. Alan Turing of the next generation, is a different, more apt story.
The report then is that this is not cinematically interesting, and some great drama has been missed in order to make a minor -- and perhaps untrue -- point.
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