Synopsis: A dramatization, in modern theatrical style, of the life and thought of the Viennese-born, Cambridge-educated philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951), whose principal interest was the nature and limits of language. A series of sketches depict the unfolding of his life from boyhood, through the era of the first World War, to his eventual Cambridge professorship and association with Bertrand Russell and John Maynard Keynes. The emphasis in these sketches is on the exposition of the ideas of Wittgenstein, a homosexual, and an intuitive, moody, proud, and perfectionistic thinker generally regarded as a genius.
Director(s): Derek Jarman
Production: Zeitgeist Films
  1 win.
Rotten Tomatoes:
72 min

If people did not sometimes...

...do silly things,


...intelligent would ever get done.

If people did not sometimes do silly things,

nothing intelligent would ever get done.


My name is Ludwig Wittgenstein.

I'm a prodigy.

I'm going to tell you my story.

I was born in 1889

to a filthy-rich family in Vienna.

I would like to introduce them to you.


- This is my mother, Leopoldine.

She was crazy about music.

In fact, she was so busy

entertaining Brahms and Mahler

that we were left with the 26 tutors

and seven grand pianos.

Hermine, my oldest sister,

was an amateur painter.

Gretyl married an American

and was psychoanalysed by Freud.

Of Helene, we will remain silent.

Three of my brothers died young.

Hans ran away to America to escape dad,

and disappeared off a boat in Chesapeake Bay.

Kurt's troops rebelled in the First World War

and the shame drove him to suicide.

Rudolf, who was bent,

spent most of his time in Berlin.

When he wasn't being theatrical, he hung out

at the Scientific Humanitarian Committee.

He topped himself drinking a glass of cyanide

in his favourite bar.

That leaves Paul. He was a concert pianist,

but lost an arm in the war.

Ravel composed the

Concerto for the Left Hand especially for him.

And as for Dad, he was always in the office

investing in American bonds.

That's how we escaped inflation

and stayed rich -

mega-rich - like the Rockefellers.

(Gentle music)

In art, it is hard to say anything

as good as saying nothing.

Even to have expressed false thought boldly

and clearly is to have gained a great deal.

Of time.

The horrors of hell

can be experienced in a single day.

That's plenty of time.


(Babble of muttering)

I was to spend a lifetime

disentangling myself from my education.

"Quite the best to be had in Vienna," Mum said.

I shared a history teacher with Adolf Hitler.

What a scream.

(Babble of voices intensifies)

(Cacophony of voices)

(Faint muttering)

(Gunshot reverberates)

(Mimics gunshots)

(Faint ticking)

If someone is merely ahead of time,

it will catch him up one day.

I am in England.

Everything around me tells me so.

Tell me how you're searching,

and I'll tell you what you're searching for.

Who's that?

Hail, earthling.


I'm a philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein.

Who are you?

You could call me Mr Green.

May I ask you a question?

How many toes do philosophers have?



That's how many humans have.

Mr Green, philosophers are humans

and know how many toes they have.

Oh dear.

Does that mean

Martians can't be philosophers?

- Oh, God.

- (Xylophone)

LUDWIG AS AN ADULT: I escaped the family

by going to Manchester University.


an industrial town in the English north.

(Laughs) I remember my father saying,

"Where there's muck, there's brass."

Well, my aim was to be

a pioneer in aeronautics.

But my experiments

ended in a teenage failure and I gave up.

I abandoned my unsuccessful attempt

to design an engine,

and, like the English hero, Dick Whittington,

went south to Cambridge

to study philosophy with Bertrand Russell.

Why won't you just admit

there's no rhinoceros in this room?

Because, Professor Russell,

the world is made up of facts, not things.

Look for yourself.

I tell you for a fact,

there is no rhinoceros in this room!

The issue is metaphysical, not empirical.

I thought the next big step in philosophy

would be yours.

Now I am not so sure.


Professor Russell.

Professor Russell.

(Crickets chirping)


"Dear Ottoline,

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Derek Jarman

Michael Derek Elworthy Jarman (31 January 1942 – 19 February 1994) was an English film director, stage designer, diarist, artist, gardener, and author. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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    "Wittgenstein" Scripts.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2023. Web. 25 Mar. 2023. <https://www.scripts.com/script/wittgenstein_23588>.

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