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Wittgenstein (Special Edition)
Special Edition
Actors: Tilda Swinton, Karl Johnson, John Quentin, Michael Gough
Director: Derek Jarman
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
UR     2008     1hr 9min

"If I post this letter to New York, does that strengthen my conviction that the world exists?" Hilariously irreverent and delightfully unconventional, Derek Jarman's last narrative film explores the personal and philosophi...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Tilda Swinton, Karl Johnson, John Quentin, Michael Gough
Director: Derek Jarman
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Family Life
Studio: Zeitgeist Films
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen,Anamorphic
DVD Release Date: 06/24/2008
Original Release Date: 01/01/1993
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/1993
Release Year: 2008
Run Time: 1hr 9min
Screens: Color,Widescreen,Anamorphic
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 8
Edition: Special Edition
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

I love this crazy movie!
Shantonu | New York City | 11/06/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Wittgenstein was not only a philosophical giant, but also a facinating personality. He was: gay, but conflicted and ashamed of his sexuality; rich, but he gave away his vast fortune and worked as a laborer; brilliant and vain, but always embarrased by his writings; the darling of academia, even though he rejected the entire philosophical tradition; jewish, but a devout christian convert; brave in war, but lacked the courage to face himself or openly support jewish causes during the war.These strange contradictions are captured in this visually beautiful and surreal film (take a gander at the cover--that's supposed to be Wittgenstein as a boy--Bizzare!). Amid the beautiful lighting, wild colors, and elegant music, the philosophy is somewhat put on the back burner. But that's to be expected, and, if you watch it two or three times, you can pick up what some of Wittgenstein's major arguments were. Even if you don't it's still great fun--sort of philosophical drama with some off beat comedy thrown in. Watch slowly with an open mind and you're sure to enjoy it!"
Passion, parody and homoeroticism
Luca Graziuso | NYC | 08/02/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)

"I have a very mixed opinion on this film. Derek Jarman is renown for doing things in ways that split the audience in two directly opposed parties, and in Wittgenstein he succeeds in doing so within my own critical assessment. It is not as if some things are done well and some are not, rather it is rediculously ingenius. This split is a trademark of Jarman, who died of AIDS complications a year before the release of this Special Edition DVD. His choice of subject in this biographical surrealist enterprise is dictated by elements that parellel the director's life, as was the case in Caravaggio. All his late work is drenched with autobiographical meditations and innuendos that describe himself more so than his subject, although they succeed in recounting an essence that is shared by both. Here Ludwig Wittgenstein is depicted as he was dscribed, particularly by Betrand Russell, John Maynard Keynes, and his befuddled students. Wittgenstein was the type of overweeing explosive intellectual which you either hated or loved, both to no avail. The script is by Terry Eagleton, a cultural critic whose brilliant Marxist literary output, coming from the school of Raymond Williams, has defined a generation of poststructuralist disciples. This joint venture betrays a whimsical attitude that parodies and deconstructs while retaining a modicum of the intellectual zeal that was the bliss and bane, the heaven and hell of the Austrian author of the Tractatus Logico Philosophicus, a work to which Russell wrote the introduction for as his beloved student lamented he had not understood a word of the Tractatus. Typical.
The humor becomes dark and sinister in turns and the surrealist representations are more of a subconscious disorder that seethes within the ebullient mind of the genius. The entire experience (and it is an experience more so than a movie) is a chronological pastiche, a pantomime of human woes. In a philosophical travesty the rediculous flirts with the sublime to furiously assemble a cadre of futile logic and implacable dilemmas that lead to nowhere, which is exactly where Wittgenstein wished to travel. Skits and gigs are memorable and do exhibit the logical depth that characterizes Wittgenstein's axiomatic engagements. Ultimately the operatic insolence is cute but deranged, the logical output limited and limiting, the rhythmic stress cavorting and distempered, the overall outlook so bleak and inordinate that we find our footing in a disoriented state with the same steps being traced over and over. And then, like a spark in the dark of night, a flash illuminates a thought and makes you wonder if you are moving to something that your intelligence mumbles trying to dictate directions. The acting is colorful and suited to a parody, and the performance of Karl Johnson as the adult Wittgenstein is impressive and faithful to the moody temperament of the philosopher's disquietude. His teaching is ludicrous but faithful to the sources we have of his inarticulate frustrations. All in all this is a movie that says more than it seems to. Any criticism due for the indelicate and overbearing role of sexuality in the person of Wittgenstein is well taken, but misunderstood and decontextualized. We have not enough information on the topic, but Jarman and Eagleton use this slant as a means of expression, a method to deconstruct, and an autobographical implementation more so than a biographical depiction. Hence I will refrain from making any comment on the homoeroticism that resonates in the movie. It is a split scene, a split subjetc, a dialectical seismic quake that marks the opening to an abyss that makes this a tragicomic experience leading straight to the inner void."
A Modern Dramatization
Amos Lassen | Little Rock, Arkansas | 05/07/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)


A Modern Dramatization

Amos Lassen

Ludwig Wittgenstein was a Viennese born, Cambridge educated philosopher whose main interest was the nature and limits of language. "Wittgenstein" by Derek Jarman is a series of sketches that show the unfolding of his life from childhood through World War I to his professorship at Cambridge and his associations with Bertrand Russell and John Maynard Keynes. The emphasis is on the exposition of his ideas and that he was homosexual and displayed intuition, pride and perfectionism in thought. He was generally regarded as a genius. Wittgenstein is one of the most fascinating men of ideas to ever have lived. He anticipated the core ideas about logic and language that are regarded today. However he did not have much influence and his ideas were later reinvented by independent means because his explications were so abstruse.
Wittgenstein also led a remarkable life. He had money and he gave money away. Philosophically he was universally celebrated even though he was not understood. He went from academia of the university to degradation several times.
However, Jarman does not deal with the facts of Wittgenstein's life and instead gives a more personal deconstruction of the man. We get Wittgenstein as a contemptuous, arrogant, petty loner who was apt to berate those who could not understand his philosophies. The film is bold and as can be anticipated, the visuals are gorgeous and it is innovative and impressive. The film shows a talent for creating an outrageous atmosphere in a restrained setting. Jarman pushes Wittgenstein's homosexuality and almost avoids the man's work and the film becomes more erotic than philosophical.
"A dramatically enthralling life"
2 cents | B.F.N. United Snakes | 04/29/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"There are no genuine philosophical problems Wittgenstein assures us. It is philosophers who create so-called philosophical problems by confusing themselves with words and misusing language. All philosophy can offer us then is a kind of therapy which can get us over these linguistic confusions.

But there sure are problems in life. There are scientific problems for one. And there are also ethical problems. There are religious problems. Wittgenstein has problems with himself and this is comically explored by the celebrated director Derek Jarman and with a script penned by influential literary critic Terry Eagleton.

It is basically a play. There are some props and costumes and all of it is shot inside with nothing but black backgrounds. The English actor (Karl Johnson) is a veritable Wittgenstein look-a-like, does the accent perfectly (as far as I can tell), and also does a very fine job capturing the intensity of the tortured genius. All other performers are engaging and among the historical figures that we encounter are Bertrand Russell and John Maynard Keynes.

Definitely of interest to anyone fascinated by the eccentric, and somewhat mad, legendary genius philosopher and not to be missed by any fan of Jarman. It's about time this little cinematic gem "Wittgenstein" is available on DVD.

See Terry Eagleton's comments on the making of this film which can be found in his _Figures of Dissent_."