Skip to main content

WITTGENSTEIN

UK, 1993 (MIFF 1993)

Director: Derek Jarman

Jarman has once again created a lush and visually stunning canvas, that explores the life and key ideologies of one of this century's most influential philosophers, Ludwig Wittgenstein. This latest addition to a constantly quirky and inspiring oevure, displays the sharper wit of Jarmen's earlier work (Caravaggio) giving Wittgenstein a lighter touch, a more sophisticated sense of the absurd than, say, Edward II.

The minimalist cinematic framework is dressed with vibrant costumes, lighting and colour. "And the Black: The black annihilates the decorative and concentrates, so my characters shine in it like red dwarfs and green giants. Yellow lines and blue stars." And the characters do indeed shine. Karl Johnson's superb performance as the tortured, repressed and intensely brilliant thinker (who also loved Carmen Miranda and Betty Hutton musicals), is played on the knife edge of genius and pathos, with both satirical and surrealist humour in full measure. Tilda Swinton has exquisite poise as the outrageously flamboyant Lady Ottoline Morrell, mistress of worldly-wise but patronising Bertrand Russell.

Jarman and co-writer, Oxford academic and literary theorist Terry Eagleton together combine a realist approach, and a more adventurous experimental form - weaving quotes from Wittgenstein into lucid, imaginary material. The subtext (this is a Jarman film) can also be read as an allegory for HIV-positivity, with Russell's worries about Wittgenstein "infecting too many young men (with his teachings)."

The film is a tour de force. highly stylised, anachronistic, inventive and amusing, everything one hopes for in a feature by Jarman, and, this time round, receives.

See also...

BLUE

Challenging British director Derek Jarman's final major work has been compared in visual execution to Warhol's Sleep and Empire State. Where it outstrips them both is in the meticulously crafted and ... More »

The Queen is Dead

A new music film from virtuoso director Derek Jarman. ... More »

THE GARDEN

Like all of writer-director Derek Jarman's previous films, The Garden is an innovative and controversial piece of work; provocative, sensual, and highly original in its play of image and sound. ... More »

THE ANGELIC CONVERSATION

Derek Jarman is best known in Australia for his more "mainstream" features (Sebastiane, Jubilee, and The Tempest) and as production designer on Ken Russell's Savage Messiah and The Devils. He has ... More »

THE LAST OF ENGLAND

Shot during the summer and autumn of "last year", this mesmerising trip into contemporary Britain's apocalyptic non future presents what is possibly filmmaker Jarman's most personal film to date ... More »

T.G. Psychic Rally in Heaven

T. G. Psychic Rally in Heaven marries abstract images of a performance by Throbbing Gristle with the ferocity and intensity of their music to brilliant effect on both eyes and ears. ... More »

Select a festival
Search The Film Archive
Browse By Director