screening
FILM
Socrate
,
,
120’

“Socrates was a guy just like Roberto [Rossellini]... He pissed everyone off, just by simply expanding on things, by going a little further. He had nothing of his own: he took from others and adapted things.”

Jean-Luc Godard1

 

“Beginning with L’eta del ferro (The Iron Age) in 1964 and continuing in this same vein until his death in 1977, Rossellini produced eleven major works of an essentially didactic nature that were conditioned by the medium of television. Many of these films involve massive amounts of time on screen, ranging from four to twelve hours, and are made up of a number of separate episodes. They reflect what Rossellini’s biographer has defined as the cinema-saggio, or the film essay, abandoning the traditional idea of a dramatic protagonist for a pedagogical look at a great man in history, usually representative of an age in which some profound psychological shift in human consciousness occurred (Socrates, Blaise Pascal, Louis XIV, Cosimo de Medici, Augustine, Descartes, Alcide De Gasperi, and Jesus Christ). When Rossellini died, he was planning several equally ambitious projects, films on Karl Marx and the American Revolution.”

Peter Bondanella2

 

“Rossellini’s history films, I prefer them. These late, long, boring TV movies. I think the so-called great Rossellinis, for example Germany Year Zero and so on, they no longer really work. I think this is the Rossellini to be rehabilitated.”3

Slavoj Žižek

 

”In de afgelopen jaren werd er inderdaad een poging gedaan om [Rossellini’s historische] films in ere te herstellen, een poging die mijns inziens uitermate serieus moet worden genomen en veel verder gaat dan het onbetwiste meesterwerk La prise de pouvoir par Louis XIV (1966). Al deze televisiefilms maken deel uit van een ambitieus cinematografisch project dat binnen de filmgeschiedenis nauwelijks zijn gelijke kent, een project dat kunst, filosofie en wetenschap tracht te verenigen door middel van de revolutionaire activiteiten van een reeks historische figuren, onder anderen Socrates, Leon Battista Alberti, René Descartes, Blaise Pascal en Jezus Christus.

In vormelijk opzicht behoren de televisiefilms tot Rossellini’s helderste films. Het krampachtige, zelfvernietigende aspect van zijn montage vóór zijn televisieperiode maakt plaats voor langer durende kaders en diepte. De zoom die Rossellini op afstand bediende met een joystick was een zelfgemaakt hulpmiddel dat toeliet om ‘de blik te leiden’ binnen het beeld om zo een overdaad aan cuts te vermijden. Op televisie vindt Rossellini iets dat hem vroeger ontbrak: het haast primitieve gebruik van duur. (...)

En toch is alles beweging – ook al is het de weifelende beweging van Bergman in het labyrint van Stromboli of Pompeï (de Geschiedenis die vervliegt in de handelingen) of van de historische televisiehelden (de lichamen van de Geschiedenis van wie de handelingen door ideeën verdampen). [...] Zelfs in de dood vindt Rossellini beweging. Het toppunt van pathos is het neervallen van Magnani in Roma, citta apertà, maar in Socrates zien we dit gebaar in zijn meest uitgepuurde vorm. Als de dood van Magnani er een is in volle vlucht, dan is die van Socrates een dood met trage tred – traag en angstvallig omwikkelt de beweging de dood. In overeenstemming met het doodsvonnis van het tribunaal reikt de beul Socrates de gifbeker aan, zegt dat hij moet drinken en vervolgens moet lopen tot zijn benen zwaar worden. Socrates wandelt van de ene naar de andere kant en de camera volgt hem in zwaaiende panbewegingen tot de filosoof halt houdt, op bed gaat zitten en zich neerlegt om zijn laatste woorden uit te spreken. Een plots einde.”

Luís Mendonça4

 

“Yet there are other ‘slow’ moments in this film that function beautifully. The best example occurs near the end, when Socrates is walking back and forth to get the hemlock working in his legs. The scene seems to go on forever, yet it is so ‘human’ (as opposed to a more conventional version, where the poison would work right away so as to avoid any possible dead time), that we are riveted. In fact, the entire last third of the film is laden with an enormous and moving sense of dignity.

The RAI decided not to broadcast Socrates until the following year [after its Venice premiere in 1970]. Even worse, the two-hour film was split in half, completely destroying the logic of its internal rhythm. [H]owever, and perhaps shocking to the RAI, the ‘index of enjoyment’ was 70 for part one and 75 for part two, quite respectable figures.”

Peter Brunette5

 

“There are times as rare as they are beautiful when you stop asking whether what you’re watching is TV or cinema, because it’s irrelevant. If television weren’t the mushy disaster to which we are all too well accustomed, it would more often accommodate images like those of The Taking of Power by Louis XIV (1966) and everybody would be happy.

This is why Rossellini has always been interested in heroes. Not in the cretinous sense of the ‘superman’, but of in the sense that things will never be the same after them. In the didactic telefilms of his last period, the hero is the one who resets the pendulum from scratch, or initiates some founding gesture, or thinks some unprecedented thought.”

Serge Daney6

 

“‘In this period,’ Roberto said, ‘began that whole system of seduction and eloquence...to [persuade] people to think as you want them to think. It was the moment when democracy became perverted by succumbing to the charms of rhetoric and eloquence. Before that men had been made slaves, soldiers with whips had dominated great masses of people.’ Now we have become enslaved by eloquence – ‘which etymologically means the art of persuasion... To persuade [ought to be] a crime because it can harm the personality, the opinions, the thoughts of others. Socrates was very aware of the danger that we are so easily persuaded of all sorts of nonsense. He was condemned to death because he wasn’t seductive at all. In fact, everybody really was against him.’ The melodrama in ‘Athens Year Zero’ is the rise of eloquence from the ruins of Periclean civilization, its triumph over reason, truth and justice, its exaction of the absurd execution of Socrates.”

Tag Gallagher7

  • 1. Jean-Luc Godard quoted in Nicole Brenez, “The Form of the Question,” In Michael Temple, James S Williams & Michael Witt (eds.), Forever Godard (London: Black Dog Publishing, 2004), 160.
  • 2. Peter Bondanella, “Cinema as a Didactic Tool: Rossellini’s Later Career,” The Films of Roberto Rossellini (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 25-26.
  • 3. Slavoj Žižek, “Criterion closet DVD picks,” The Criterion Collection, September 24, 2014.
  • 4. Luís Mendonça, “Rossellini en de strijd tegen onwetendheid op televisie,” Sabzian, June 13, 2018. Vertaald door Rasmus Van Heddeghem. Deze tekst verscheen oorspronkelijk op A pala de Walsh in 2014.
  • 5. Peter Brunette, “The Grand Historical Project: Socrates (1970),” Roberto Rossellini (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996; reprint), 301-2. Tag Gallagher (see footnote 7) adds from the original Italian source: ”76% found the story easy to follow; 75% thought the argument interesting; 71% said Socrates’s mentality was modern; 80% said his method of dialogue was still useful, and 87% judged his ideas to be positive on the whole.”
  • 6. Serge Daney, “Rossellini, Louis XIV, the first,” Libération, December 5, 1988. Translated by Laurent Kretzschmar on his blog Serge Daney in English.
  • 7. Tag Gallagher, The Adventures of Roberto Rossellini (New York: Da Capo Press, 2006; revised edition).
Sat 13 Jul 2019, 14:30
De Studio, Antwerp
PART OF Zomerfilmcollege 2019
  • Followed by a lecture by Nick Pinkerton
FILM
Socrate
,
,
120’

“Socrates was a guy just like Roberto [Rossellini]... He pissed everyone off, just by simply expanding on things, by going a little further. He had nothing of his own: he took from others and adapted things.”

Jean-Luc Godard1

 

“Beginning with L’eta del ferro (The Iron Age) in 1964 and continuing in this same vein until his death in 1977, Rossellini produced eleven major works of an essentially didactic nature that were conditioned by the medium of television. Many of these films involve massive amounts of time on screen, ranging from four to twelve hours, and are made up of a number of separate episodes. They reflect what Rossellini’s biographer has defined as the cinema-saggio, or the film essay, abandoning the traditional idea of a dramatic protagonist for a pedagogical look at a great man in history, usually representative of an age in which some profound psychological shift in human consciousness occurred (Socrates, Blaise Pascal, Louis XIV, Cosimo de Medici, Augustine, Descartes, Alcide De Gasperi, and Jesus Christ). When Rossellini died, he was planning several equally ambitious projects, films on Karl Marx and the American Revolution.”

Peter Bondanella2

 

“Rossellini’s history films, I prefer them. These late, long, boring TV movies. I think the so-called great Rossellinis, for example Germany Year Zero and so on, they no longer really work. I think this is the Rossellini to be rehabilitated.”3

Slavoj Žižek

 

”In de afgelopen jaren werd er inderdaad een poging gedaan om [Rossellini’s historische] films in ere te herstellen, een poging die mijns inziens uitermate serieus moet worden genomen en veel verder gaat dan het onbetwiste meesterwerk La prise de pouvoir par Louis XIV (1966). Al deze televisiefilms maken deel uit van een ambitieus cinematografisch project dat binnen de filmgeschiedenis nauwelijks zijn gelijke kent, een project dat kunst, filosofie en wetenschap tracht te verenigen door middel van de revolutionaire activiteiten van een reeks historische figuren, onder anderen Socrates, Leon Battista Alberti, René Descartes, Blaise Pascal en Jezus Christus.

In vormelijk opzicht behoren de televisiefilms tot Rossellini’s helderste films. Het krampachtige, zelfvernietigende aspect van zijn montage vóór zijn televisieperiode maakt plaats voor langer durende kaders en diepte. De zoom die Rossellini op afstand bediende met een joystick was een zelfgemaakt hulpmiddel dat toeliet om ‘de blik te leiden’ binnen het beeld om zo een overdaad aan cuts te vermijden. Op televisie vindt Rossellini iets dat hem vroeger ontbrak: het haast primitieve gebruik van duur. (...)

En toch is alles beweging – ook al is het de weifelende beweging van Bergman in het labyrint van Stromboli of Pompeï (de Geschiedenis die vervliegt in de handelingen) of van de historische televisiehelden (de lichamen van de Geschiedenis van wie de handelingen door ideeën verdampen). [...] Zelfs in de dood vindt Rossellini beweging. Het toppunt van pathos is het neervallen van Magnani in Roma, citta apertà, maar in Socrates zien we dit gebaar in zijn meest uitgepuurde vorm. Als de dood van Magnani er een is in volle vlucht, dan is die van Socrates een dood met trage tred – traag en angstvallig omwikkelt de beweging de dood. In overeenstemming met het doodsvonnis van het tribunaal reikt de beul Socrates de gifbeker aan, zegt dat hij moet drinken en vervolgens moet lopen tot zijn benen zwaar worden. Socrates wandelt van de ene naar de andere kant en de camera volgt hem in zwaaiende panbewegingen tot de filosoof halt houdt, op bed gaat zitten en zich neerlegt om zijn laatste woorden uit te spreken. Een plots einde.”

Luís Mendonça4

 

“Yet there are other ‘slow’ moments in this film that function beautifully. The best example occurs near the end, when Socrates is walking back and forth to get the hemlock working in his legs. The scene seems to go on forever, yet it is so ‘human’ (as opposed to a more conventional version, where the poison would work right away so as to avoid any possible dead time), that we are riveted. In fact, the entire last third of the film is laden with an enormous and moving sense of dignity.

The RAI decided not to broadcast Socrates until the following year [after its Venice premiere in 1970]. Even worse, the two-hour film was split in half, completely destroying the logic of its internal rhythm. [H]owever, and perhaps shocking to the RAI, the ‘index of enjoyment’ was 70 for part one and 75 for part two, quite respectable figures.”

Peter Brunette5

 

“There are times as rare as they are beautiful when you stop asking whether what you’re watching is TV or cinema, because it’s irrelevant. If television weren’t the mushy disaster to which we are all too well accustomed, it would more often accommodate images like those of The Taking of Power by Louis XIV (1966) and everybody would be happy.

This is why Rossellini has always been interested in heroes. Not in the cretinous sense of the ‘superman’, but of in the sense that things will never be the same after them. In the didactic telefilms of his last period, the hero is the one who resets the pendulum from scratch, or initiates some founding gesture, or thinks some unprecedented thought.”

Serge Daney6

 

“‘In this period,’ Roberto said, ‘began that whole system of seduction and eloquence...to [persuade] people to think as you want them to think. It was the moment when democracy became perverted by succumbing to the charms of rhetoric and eloquence. Before that men had been made slaves, soldiers with whips had dominated great masses of people.’ Now we have become enslaved by eloquence – ‘which etymologically means the art of persuasion... To persuade [ought to be] a crime because it can harm the personality, the opinions, the thoughts of others. Socrates was very aware of the danger that we are so easily persuaded of all sorts of nonsense. He was condemned to death because he wasn’t seductive at all. In fact, everybody really was against him.’ The melodrama in ‘Athens Year Zero’ is the rise of eloquence from the ruins of Periclean civilization, its triumph over reason, truth and justice, its exaction of the absurd execution of Socrates.”

Tag Gallagher7

  • 1. Jean-Luc Godard quoted in Nicole Brenez, “The Form of the Question,” In Michael Temple, James S Williams & Michael Witt (eds.), Forever Godard (London: Black Dog Publishing, 2004), 160.
  • 2. Peter Bondanella, “Cinema as a Didactic Tool: Rossellini’s Later Career,” The Films of Roberto Rossellini (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 25-26.
  • 3. Slavoj Žižek, “Criterion closet DVD picks,” The Criterion Collection, September 24, 2014.
  • 4. Luís Mendonça, “Rossellini en de strijd tegen onwetendheid op televisie,” Sabzian, June 13, 2018. Vertaald door Rasmus Van Heddeghem. Deze tekst verscheen oorspronkelijk op A pala de Walsh in 2014.
  • 5. Peter Brunette, “The Grand Historical Project: Socrates (1970),” Roberto Rossellini (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996; reprint), 301-2. Tag Gallagher (see footnote 7) adds from the original Italian source: ”76% found the story easy to follow; 75% thought the argument interesting; 71% said Socrates’s mentality was modern; 80% said his method of dialogue was still useful, and 87% judged his ideas to be positive on the whole.”
  • 6. Serge Daney, “Rossellini, Louis XIV, the first,” Libération, December 5, 1988. Translated by Laurent Kretzschmar on his blog Serge Daney in English.
  • 7. Tag Gallagher, The Adventures of Roberto Rossellini (New York: Da Capo Press, 2006; revised edition).