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Shadows on the Wall of the Cave

So the French philosopher Alain Badiou is apparently writing a movie about Plato (via @jamespoulos). The script will be in English. But Badiou claims that he won’t include a single word that’s not in Plato’s dialogues. In addition to bringing a ripping yarn to the cinemas, TVs, and laptops of the world, Badiou thinks it would be subversive to disseminate the teachings of Plato, “the symbol of universal wisdom”, by means of the “propaganda machine of American life, the capital of capitalist corruption: Hollywood!”.

I can’t believe that Badiou is serious (I feel the same way about his philosophical writings). Nevertheless, I hope that he succeeds. The Platonic dialogues were often performed as dinnertime entertainment in the Hellenistic period. Although it might not please scholars, there’s historical precedent for a film.

But I have quibbles about Badiou’s dream cast, which would include Brad Pitt as Plato and Sean Connery as Socrates. For one thing, Plato doesn’t appear in any of the dialogues. So Pitt would presumably be limited to a silent role. He might have more opportunity to display his talents as Alcibiades.

More seriously, Sean Connery, is much too good looking to play a man whose bulging eyes and pug nose were the object of mockery to his contemporaries. How about Wallace Shawn? Or Paul Giamatti?

Apart from the stars, a film about Socrates would offer wonderful roles to character actors. Who would play the loyal Crito? The dim Euthyphron? The spirited Thrasymachus? Are there any figure from the dialogues you’d particularly like to see on screen? Personally, I’d love to see a cameo appearance by Aristophanes, who was the first to see the crowd-pleasing potential in all this nonsense about philosophy.

about the author

Samuel Goldman is an assistant professor of political science and director of the Loeb Institute for Religious Freedom at George Washington University. He earned a Ph.D. in political science from Harvard, where he has also taught writing. In addition to The American Conservative, Goldman’s work has appeared in The New Criterion, The Wall Street Journal, and Maximumrocknroll. Follow him on Twitter.

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