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Marcello Di Falco,
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Rosselini's made-for-television movie ought to be shown in high school classes, if only to inform today's students that there was once a Democracy in a place called Greece and that it was the home of many philosophers, Socrates arguably chief among them. Generally speaking, Americans seem pretty dumb today, especially students. Tasks that were routine assignments when I was in high school are now found in Advanced Placement classes. ("The Great Gatsby", eg.) I suspect Socrates might have agreed with me. Here's a quote often attributed to him, though there's no real proof he said it.
"The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers."
I'm with Socrates when he complains about the young. I wasn't with him when I was young but now that I'm old, well, I'm with him.
At the same time, Socrates is sort of bad company when you get right down to it. After a lifetime of teaching, and at the age of seventy, he was brought before the judges in Athens accused of all kinds of crimes, from corrupting the youth of Athens and not believing in the gods to wearing white after Labor Day. After an eloquent and non-apologetic Apologia, he was sentenced to death, drank a cup of hemlock, and died content.
Considering that this was never intended to be a Major Motion Picture, it's quite good. Jean Sylvère who plays Socrates LOOKS a lot like the bust of Socrates that many have seen, the bust with the nose broken off, although Sylvère's nose is in fact intact. And the dialog, apparently lifted from Plato, is an excellent illustration of the Socratic method.
I understand some modern professor's use some version of the Socratic method. You don't take a position and argue it. You ask enough of the right KINDS of questions until your adversary finds himself making the argument for you. I'll give just one of the briefest examples. Socrates is about to take the hemlock when his wife, Xanthippe, runs to him, flings her arms around the old man's neck, and cries, "You've been convicted so unjustly!", to which Socrates replies over her shoulder, "Would you rather have me convicted justly?" My impression was always that Xanthippe was something of a nag but she redeems herself here.
The values of the production are spare but adequate to the task. True, there is a lot of talk and nobody's head gets wrenched off, but the talk is so enthralling, so unusual in today's discourse, that I found it eminently followable. I suspect even high school students might get a lot out of it.
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