Extremely good value for folks interested in the history of science, history of rationalism, or mid-renaissance thinkers and culture. Rossellini's very sober Cartesius is a chronicle of Descartes' life and times, following him through Europe as he develops his ideas about science and existence. Rossellini shows us the genius Descartes, but also shows us quietly that he could get things wrong and that he was a product of his times.
The production has some weaknesses as well as some strengths. The music, as another reviewer has mentioned, is odd and over-used. The acting is adequate but never more than that. There is a tableau quality to scenes throughout the film the people are stiff and come across as conduits of the dialogue rather than actually speaking. There are some real pluses too. During the entirety of one scene in which Descartes is describing his philosophy to a printer, two men work a printing press one placing the blank pages on the type set that he has daubed with ink, and the other turning the screw a half turn, then back. There are several other scenes that show craftspeople engaged in their work. Finally, I found it refreshing that everyone, French, Dutch, and English, spoke Italian - leaving me to figure out nationality by clothing styles and names.
If Cartesius turns out to be your cup of tea, you may like Potop (The Deluge), directed by Jerzy Hoffman, set in Poland around the time of Descartes (and Gustav Adolph). While a very different approach to filmed history, it is a colourful and interesting story.
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