Umberto Eco: A Library of the World

Date TBD
Umberto Eco: A Library of the World

It wasn’t until he died, in 2016, that the celebrated Italian author and philosopher Umberto Eco went properly viral. Resurfaced as a listicle of sorts, his 1995 essay delineating the salient features of fascism seemed newly timely then, not just as so-called shareable content, but also as tribute to Eco’s deep consideration of how words mean what they mean, and why it matters. Even more widely shared, however, was something wholly wordless: a video of Eco striding through his enormous personal library, which gradually reveals itself as preposterously vast. With the camera tracking his every turn down new book-lined corridors, a sort of sublime rapture sets in; it’s a bit like Danny Torrance Big-Wheeling through the Overlook Hotel in THE SHINING, except what’s spine-tingling here isn’t creepy twin-girl ghosts but the simultaneous magnificence and precariousness of all human knowledge.

A documentary immersion into all things Eco, Davide Ferrario’s UMBERTO ECO: A LIBRARY OF THE WORLD takes us on a tour of Eco’s private library, guided by the author himself. Combining new footage with material he shot with Eco in 2015 for a video installation for the Venice Biennale, Ferrario documents this incredible collection and the man who amassed it. As Eco leads us among the more than 50,000 volumes and his family reflects on his legacy, we also gain insight into the library of the mind of this vastly prolific and original thinker.

In the words of Eco's family, "Supporting and being part of Davide's documentary was motivated by the desire to bear witness to the existence of Umberto's and [wife] Renate's home-library-studio, built by them through the years, where we, as a family, lived for such a long time. There are many books, yes. They fill up the shelves, they overflow on the tables, they occupy boxes and drawers and sometimes they just lie in piles on the floor: they are the vegetal memory, in which Umberto's soul lives on."

In Italian with English subtitles. NR, 1h 20m.

(Summary partially excerpted from Screen Slate.)

"The film becomes a timely epistemological rumination on the difference between knowledge and information, the relationship between memory and technology." – Slant Magazine

"As we wander through the labyrinth we are drawn further and further into its trap, made ever more keenly aware of our own hunger for knowledge, for understanding." – Eye for Film

"Exploring fictional worlds with Eco for a guide remains a diverting and often enlightening pursuit." – New York Times

"The contemporary Italian philosopher, medievalist, critic, commentator and reluctant novelist comes to buoyant, engaging life in this look back at the man and his books, through the eyes of family and friends, and in the author’s own words." – Original Cin