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About Wittgenstein Abecedarium

Wittgenstein Abecedarium grew out of a long-term project that I started five years ago, that involved living as an itinerant filmmaker, changing residence every few months or so. In each location, I would look for a subject to make a film about - a street, a river, a person, an idea - anything the place might suggest to me. Or I would make a film about a subject or theme that might come to mind. I don’t write conventional narrative scripts or outlines - my films evolve in response to my changing experience of the person, place, or thing, conversations with people, and through reading and research. For each film, I try to adapt or invent a form to fit the subject.


I had studied Wittgenstein in college, and on a whim, visited his grave while I happened to be passing through Cambridge 5 years ago. After spending time in the graveyard and meeting people who make pilgrimages to his gravesite, I decided make a film in Cambridge, based on my own personal view of his work, life and relationship to art and culture.

The process of making Wittgenstein Abecedarium took about four years altogether, and involved filming in the Ascension Burial Ground in Cambridge and other European and American locations, collecting archival still and moving images, studying Wittgenstein, researching biographies, memoirs and dissertations, and interviewing the people who come to visit his grave. At the same time, I was editing and re-editing the film using multiple spreadsheets to create the structure of the film. Although the film has many of the features and content we expect to be in a documentary, it is not so much structured by the narrative form usually employed for film documentaries, but by musical, literary, and mathematical forms, and the rigorous form of Wittgenstein's Tractatus itself. 

Jeffrey Hall  

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