They are without question among the principal architects of the imagination of our time and yet both are still widely regarded as difficult or impossible to comprehend: a film about the work and ideas of Schoenberg and Wittgenstein, who changed the course of European thought.
At the close of the 19th century, Vienna presented to the world a picture of ordered elegance and dignified gaiety, but beneath the surface the corruption of the late Hapsburg Empire produced widespread and deep-seated confusion and so set the stage for some of the profoundest meditations on the nature of human experience that the 20th century ever produced.
Vienna was the scene of the intellectual and artistic struggles of many of the seminal minds of our time; among them, Karl Kraus, Robert Musil, Georg Trakl, Otto Wagner and Adolf Loos, Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele and Oscar Kokoshka, Sigmund Freud, Gustav Mahler, Arnold Schoenberg and Ludwig Wittgenstein.
Schoenberg – the composer – and Wittgenstein – author of the Tractatus Logico Philosophicus – never met, although they were close contemporaries and had common friends in Viennese intellectual society. Why put them together? Because their work springs from the same soil and shares a common ethical purpose; so much so that the development of their ideas runs parallel throughout their lives in an extraordinary and very illuminating way.
"When people speak of me, they immediately connect me in horror with atonality and with composition with twelve notes. Perhaps they do not sufficiently consider that I am trying to say something which cannot be so easily or immediately grasped."
– Arnold Schoenberg
"Perhaps one day this civilization will produce a culture. When that happens, there will be a real history of the discoveries of the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries."
– Ludwig Wittgenstein