DIRECTOR: Péter Forgács | WRITER: Ludwig Wittgenstein (extracts from Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus and Culture and Value) | Hungary
The more I’ve thought about Péter Forgács’ Wittgenstein Tractatus the more I dislike it. Forgács takes seven “lemmas” from Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Tratatus Logico-Philosophicus and illustrates them one at a time with home movie footage from the 1930s and into the early 1960s, each lemma being associated with different footage. The lemma first appears in English and Hungarian on an amateurishly typeset title card, and then is spoken, in accented English, on the soundtrack. The unidentified footage — a man jumping and skipping around, a group of people on a ski holiday, two middle-aged women doing the twist in front of a television showing two men playing ping pong, a topless woman at a sewing machine, a rabbit apparently writhing in circles with a broken neck, and so on — is variously tinted, replayed, shown in slow motion, overlaid with directional arrows, while the lemma itself streams across the screen in long strips of badly set type. And each section opens and closes with an extremely badly done computer animation of a frame from that piece of footage being ripped into pieces and floating away or the reverse, floating in from the margins and forming a whole. Oh! And I haven’t mentioned the music! It consists of a man repeatedly dah-dah-dum-dah-dahing the same non-tune in a monotone to the arrhythmic plunks of a stringed instrument on and off, on and off, throughout the entire movie. Why these extracts from Wittgenstein? And why are they written only in English and Hungarian, and spoken on the soundtrack only in English, with not a word in the original German? Why these pieces of found footage? I really don’t know and don’t care. I’d be more than willing to overlook the pretentiousness, but the defiantly amateurish effort that went into making this short is what I find myself unwilling to overlook, and the complete and total lack of attention given to the typography is inexcusable and unforgivable. But if you, Dear Reader, would like to read more about this short and its intent and what it means and all of that, be my guest. Here’s Whitney Davis’ “The World Rewound” for your reading pleasure.
ADDENDUM: I see that I neglected to point out something: the film is just ugly. Not ugly because what Wittgenstein wrote is morally offensive, nor does the found footage contain morally offensive content, although a couple of the clips made me somewhat uncomfortable. Not ugly to make a point about prettiness or beauty. It’s just really unpleasant to look at and listen to.