1971-1980ClassicsDramaItalyPhilosophy on ScreenRoberto Rossellini

Roberto Rossellini – Cartesius (1974)

Rossellini, 1973: One makes films in order to become a better human being.
The New York Times, : Just watching Rossellini’s magnificent work may help a bit in that department as well.

In the final phase of his career, Italian master Roberto Rossellini embarked on a dramatic, daunting project: a series of television films about knowledge and history, made in an effort to teach, where contemporary media were failing. Looking at the Western world’s major figures and moments, yet focusing on the small details of daily life, Rossellini was determined not to recount history but to relive it, as it might have been, unadorned and full of the drama of the everyday. This selection of Rossellini’s history films presents The Age of the Medici, Cartesius and Blaise Pascal – works that don’t just enliven the past but illuminate the ideas that have brought us to where we are today.

Rossellini’s portrait of “the Father of Modern Philosophy”, Rene Descartes (in Latin, Renatus Cartesius), depicts the seventeenth-century thinker’s agonized struggle to assert the primacy of reason. There are two episodes.

As profoundly simple as its hero’s famous statement “I think, therefore I am,” Roberto Rossellini’s Cartesius is an intimate, psychological study of obsession and existential crisis.

Rossellini said his idea for the movie came from a book by Benedetto Croce, who thought Descartes hopelessly abstract. Yet Rossellini felt that if he could translate the “incredible chaos of the times” into his movie, “viewers would understand immediately why Descartes felt the need to write a Discourse on Method.” Rossellini described Descartes as less likable than Pascal, even “a son of a bitch, a coward, a lazy person. He was quite repulsive, of course, not simpatico. But I don’t care about that. He was intelligent.”

Cartesius cost about $130,000 and was financed by Italian and French television. Rossellini had planned to shoot in France, in English, with an American actor playing Descartes, for American television. The French were unhappy with English and an American in a French movie on Descartes. When the smoke cleared in February 1973, the production had moved to locations near Rome, an Italian was playing Descartes (Ugo Cardea), and on the first morning the actors learned they would enunciate brand-new dialogue in French. French television refused the film, however, for lack of authenticity, so, ultimately, it was dubbed into Italian and shown only in Italy.

Cardea wanted to proclaim Descartes’ famous line “I think, therefore I am.” But Rossellini said, “Say it as if you’re buying cigarettes. Do you think Descartes was figuring out that moment what he was saying? He’d been thinking about it all his life, which is why he’d say it now without any particular expression.”

2.48GB | 2h 41mn | 700×525 | mkv




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