Wittgenstein does not have a typical film structure nor was the film directed in a typically cinematic way. Director Derek Jarman decided to direct Wittgenstein on a theater stage, in a theatrical manner. What compelled Jarman to direct the film this way, especially a bio-pic, seems rather dubious yet it is surprisingly executed in a successful manner, surely more successful than Jarman’s adaption of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Unfortunately, Wittgenstein is mainly narrated by a child actor that is supposed to be a young Ludwig Wittgenstein, a child that even makes Harry Potter less turdish by comparison. Of course, Ludwig Wittgenstein was a child prodigy so using a child Ludwig Wittgenstein does make sense, after all Wittgenstein’s life seemed to go more downhill (for him, at least) the older he got.
Ludwig Wittgenstein happened to attend the same grade school as Adolf Hitler and the rumor is that a certain repellent Jewish child Hitler mentions in his autobiography Mein Kampf was actually Wittgenstein. Of course, the validity of this claim is questionable to say the least, but if one thing is true, it is that Ludwig Wittgenstein was one of the most famous self-loathing Jews in all of history. Wittgenstein was highly influenced by the brilliant Jewish psychologist/philosopher Otto Weininger, who killed himself shortly after writing his masterwork “Sex and Character” in 1903 at the ripe age of 23, a man that claimed Jewish traits and female traits were one in the same. Weininger also proclaimed that the feminizing of Western civilization was largely responsible for the degeneracy of society as well as the decline of the West. Mommy lover and cokehead Sigmund Freud was not too fond of fellow Viennese Jew Weininger, although he recognized his genius. Wittgenstein however was a fan of both Weininger and Freud, but his interest in Freud largely came from his interesting writings, not his scientific methods, which Wittgenstein felt were scientifically laughable and quackish. In Wittgenstein, proclaims of Freud, “It’s dangerous stuff, it takes a Viennese to know another.” Ludwig Wittgenstein was surely hard on his fellow Jewish intellectuals, even stating in his brilliant book Culture and Value: “Amongst Jews “genius” is found only in the holy man. Even the greatest of Jewish thinkers in no more than talented. (Myself for instance.) I think there is some truth in my idea that I really only think reproductively.”
Not only did Ludwig Wittgenstein attack his own race (or at least ¾ of his blood, being only a full-Jew by National Socialist standards), but he also had a lot of negative things to say about his profession as a philosopher. In Derek Jarman’s Wittgenstein, Wittgenstein proclaims “Philosophy is a sickness of the mind.” In Ludwig Wittgenstein’s most well known work (and probably most important) Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, Wittgenstein states, “Most of the propositions and questions to be found in philosophical works are not false but nonsensical……….Most of the propositions and questions of philosophers arise from our failure to understand the logic of our language.” In a sense, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus can be looked at as the most honest work on philosophy ever written (of course, not that I have read all works of philosophy). Whereas Friedrich Nietzsche is often praised for his skill and talent in regards to aesthetics (although having many times contradicted himself philosophically), Ludwig Wittgenstein’s form of philosophy seems to have been strictly utilitarian. In Jarman’s Wittgenstein, the character of Ludwig Wittgenstein goes into exaggerated self-parody-like rants against both philosophy and language, making the film most interesting as an introduction to the work and life of Wittgenstein.
After seeing the historical-fiction film When Nietzsche Wept on Friedrich Nietzsche not too long ago, an embarrassing flick-able flick indeed, I can easily say that Jarman’s Wittgenstein may possibly be the best film ever made about a philosopher, not that that says much. Certainly, Derek Jarman has an immense care for his subject in Wittgenstein, even if he did not attempt to portray the man any where near to his full complexity. As for how the film was constructed, Wittgenstein is surely its own cinematic league, just like the philosopher himself. Just don’t expect an in depth analysis of the Wittgenstein’s work and theories, but instead an artistic tribute to a man that surely deserves it.