The Invisible Author

Death and self-negation in the historical films of Roberto Rossellini
by Bilge Ebiri   posted Jan 21, 2009

Back to Article


To Revenge Socrates (For Being “Too Smart”) – Totalitarianism and Formal Democracy’s Attack on The Intellectuals Roberto Rossellini’s “Socrates” (1971) – A Teacher Who Is Killed for Teaching “Socrates” by Roberto Rossellini is in no way just a historical film about the great philosopher of the antiquity and his conflict with some of his fellow Athenians. This film makes endless parallels between how Socrates was treated under Athenian democracy and how intellectuals and humanistic education are perceived in today’s formally democratic societies. For Rossellini the animosity toward Socrates in ancient Athena is a metaphor of growing animosity toward independent scholarship and critical thinking by today’s totalitarian but also democratic societies that are more and more occupied with power and profit and afraid of autonomous knowledge and education. Rossellini who knew life under Mussolini and in a post-fascist democracy suggests that to be free from totalitarian ideological despotism is not enough to become a genuinely democratic person, that people who live within a democracy but are without humanistic education, are prone to be intolerant to everybody who don’t share their worldview and existential tastes and, therefore, tend to behave like typical totalitarian people. Democratic procedures without democratic mind, soul and heart are like an empty shell, like sails without wind, or like shoes without feet. The fact that today in US there is less and less money for education, that school teachers and college professors are losing their job, and their profession is less and less respected, colleges are more and more militarized in their research programs, and giant sport events, pop-music and video-games have become children and youth’s main interlocutor during their free time – all this can be a death sentence to democracy. Socrates is killed again and again in history. Please, visit: to read article “Roberto Rossellini’s Socrates (1971) – The Teacher Who is killed for Teaching” with analysis of shots from the film, and essays about films by Godard, Resnais, Bergman, Kurosawa, Bunuel, Bresson, Pasolini, Cavani, Antonioni, Bertolucci, Fassbinder, Alan Tanner, Ronald Neame and Moshe Mizrahi. Victor Enyutin
actingoutpolitics   posted 22.05.11


Fighting Words

Fighting Words
by Imogen Sara Smith
posted August 12, 2014

Fighting Words, Part 2

Fighting Words, Part 2
by Imogen Sara Smith
posted August 20, 2014

On the Margins: The Films of Patrick Lung Kong

On the Margins: The Fil…
by Andrew Chan
posted August 12, 2014

Robin Williams: A Sense of Wonder

Robin Williams: A Sense…
by David Schwartz
posted August 12, 2014

Courtesy Criterion Collection
Jean-Marie Patte and Raymond Jourdan in The Taking of Power by Louis XIV, directed by Roberto Rossellini
Photo Gallery: The Invisible Author


Bilge Ebiri writes about film for New York magazine and Bookforum. He is also the director of the feature film New Guy (2003).

More articles by Bilge Ebiri