Monday, May 11, 2009

The Examined Life

Seeing The Examined Life was my first outside event. Months ago. However, all my thoughts about it are still fresh in my mind because it was a documentary unlike any I had seen before. The premise of the film is based of famous quote by Socrates, "The unexamined life is not worth living." Director Astra Taylor breaks the film into 8 parts, interviewing contemporary philosphers and progressive intellectuals. At first I was weary about watching what I assumed would be 8 lengthy talking head interviews with people I hadn't heard of, saying things that would go right over my head. I even took my roommate with me, who loves philosophy, so he could explain it to me afterwards if needed. However, Taylor did a lot of great things that really made this movie work.

Each philosopher had a ten minute segment in the film. They really were just straight interviews, however she had them always moving and in an environment that related to what they were speaking about. The philosphers were shown strolling through a park, rummaging through trash, walking down busy NY streets, riding in a car, rowing a boat in Central Park, etc. The speakers themselves were dynamic, interesting both to look at and listen to, and Taylor was able to make hearing modern philosophy engaging and understandable. The material being said would most likely be lost on someone if they were given the writings of these philosophers, but seeing the thinkers out and about and providing tangible visuals to relate their thoughts to the viewer and the contemporary world really made the documentary effective. She did a great job of making the philosophers personable and relatable, such as when Michael Hardt grounds his rowboat on a rock, and Cornell West hops out of the car to walk home.

Taylor was at the event and was inspiring in relaying what motivated her to make the film. She knew she was taking a risk by making a feaure documentary about a subject that one, if not already interested in philosophy, may be unlikely to watch or respond to. However, her variety of interviewees and topics make it nearly impossible to walk away without inspiring thought in a viewer's head.

I highly recommend it!

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