Cartesius. 1974. Italy. Written and directed by Roberto Rossellini. With Ugo Cardea, Anne Pouchie, Claude Berthy. DVD. In Italian; English subtitles. 150 min.
What is truth? This is the question at the center of Roberto Rossellini’s subdued biopic on French philosopher René Descartes, part of a loose series of historical films that defined the director’s work in his final years. The film walks through 25 years of Descartes’ life, focusing on his insatiable quest for knowledge as he travels throughout Europe debating other great minds. Though at first glance these films appear drastically different from the Neorealist masterpieces that made him famous, the naturalistic approach, existential pondering, and use of amateur actors is pure Rossellini.