Péter Forgács: „Wittgenstein Tractatus“, Hungary, colour, 32 min.


Tattooed Dolphins, 19 January 2007 

Author: tedg (tedg@FilmsFolded.com) from Virginia Beach


Regular readers ask about what writers about film I like. It isn’t any of those French guys; in fact my history starts with Harriot and goes through Wittgenstein, then to theorists in logical narrative. (No, not Peirce.) 

Wittgenstein is a fascinating guy to study, in part because his ideas are clean, very clean. But more important was that over time he abandoned every one of them, replacing them with something more subtle, elegant and hard to reach. The ideas in „Tractus“ were his earliest and while some nice phrases can be extracted for posters, if they are worth reading at all, its worth reading the repudiation of them.

Still, anything that draws from even the first Wittgenstein trumps any silliness you will find in „What the bleep,“ „Tao of Steve,“ or „Waking Life.“

This is a very ambitious film. It has these components: text of Wittgenstein phrases from the Tractus and private statements about his own life and psyche, with that same text spoken in different time. It shows „found“ home movie segments (though some are apparently faked). These are silent of course but have some appropriate sound effects added. The era of the images varies quite a bit, most from the 50s it seems. Tractus is from about 1919. There is an effective score as well.

So we have several things in parallel, what I call „folded.“ We are given this man’s life. He was profoundly bipolar, what we now call bipolar and some of his philosophical (and architectural!) musings were specifically to counter suicide (like his brothers). We are given some very strong ideas from Tractus, which deals with the distance among the three concepts: „picture,“ „world,“ and „language.“ To use images from the world in apparently random ways (except the editing rhythm) and written and spoken language to illustrate these ideas is a brilliant notion.

We have the distance between the ideas, the distance between each of the images, and the distance among the components of what we see: its first, second and third meanings. One phrase: „everything you see could be otherwise,“ permeates. 

I saw this together with „Cremaster 2“ and this for its flaws was vastly superior. It floats above meaning but has meaning. It shows something that must be incomprehensible but must also be. One registration: all the home movies are of Hungarians. Wittgenstein was Austrian; Vienna and Budapest were cities of the same empire until Tractus and afterward Hungary began a long slide toward internalism.

So forgive the filmmaker for not getting deeper into the ideas. What he’s done is good enough to be head and shoulders above other „idea“ movies.

Ted’s Evaluation — 3 of 3: Worth watching.