Great theater in the cinema: “Seneca” with John Malkovich

Berlin (dpa) – Looking back at today: The internationally acclaimed German film director Robert Schwentke (“Determination”) looks at the life and death of the philosopher Seneca with a star ensemble led by Hollywood icon John Malkovich. And derives insights into the present from looking at history. The film is stylistically reminiscent of legendary productions by the theater director Frank Castorf at the Berlin Volksbühne.

Lucius Annaeus Seneca lived 2000 years ago, in the first century of our era. The philosopher, playwright, natural scientist and politician has had a major influence on modern thinking. He is considered one of the most important Stoics. They rely on strict self-control. With serenity and peace of mind, they seek wisdom. Which includes, in particular, a modest lifestyle.

Philosophical adviser to Emperor Nero

With the latter, Seneca didn’t take it too seriously. While he preached frugality, he personally reveled in prosperity. He earned it above all as an educator and advisor to the brutal Roman Emperor Nero (37 – 68). The self-absorbed thinker liked to claim that the murderous tyrant would have done worse without his influence. Nero rewarded him with the order to kill himself.

The view of yesterday applies to the present. The history play effectively criticizes current gaps between the speeches and actions of many rulers worldwide. As cinematic theatre, this is of great appeal. We have to thank the world stars in particular such as John Malkovich, Geraldine Chaplin and Julian Sands, but also German celebrities such as the actors Wolfram Koch, Samuel Finzi, Alexander Fehling and Lilith Stangenberg, who became well-known at the Berlin Volksbühne. They all offer great theatre, very thoughtful.

Seneca – Or: About the birth of earthquakes, Germany 2023, 112 minutes, FSK from 16, by Robert Schwentke, with John Malkovich, Geraldine Chaplin, Alexander Fehling