Monte Grande: What is Life?
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How is it possible for body and mind to exist as an integrated whole? The Chilean neurobiologist Francisco Varela devoted his entire life - from childhood to death to answering this question. The structure of the film is based on Varela's non-linear thinking and focuses on autopoiesis, ethics, consciousness, meditation and dying. The film also includes narrative accounts and reflections from Varela himself, his relatives, leading scientists, friends and thinkers, including His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Heinz von Foerster (the father of cybernetics), Jean-Pierre Dupuy, Evan Thompson, Anne Harrington, Humberto Maturana, etc. Three key concepts shape the film: the relationship between body and mind (embodiment), the meaning of self-responsibility (autonomy) and spirituality. DVD features include film stop to access additional information, 120 minutes of bonus interviews, topics and places, and the short, "Making Empanadas."
Varela was one of the great minds and grand souls of our day. MONTE GRANDE carries his spirit for all time. --Daniel Goleman, Psychologist & Author of Emotional Intelligence
A gentle and moving film. It is so refreshing to see a movie that whilst presenting challenging and provocative ideas does so without a hint of aggression. --Leonardo Digital Reviews
In MONTE GRANDE one gets to know Varela in a way that I would not have believed possible. This is the story of a man that is told affectionately and gently, touchingly and astutely. This film succeeds - if only for 80 delightful minutes - in deconstructing the prevailing division between science and art. --Bernhard Pörksen, Professor of Communications Science, University of Hamburg
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Top Customer Reviews
In the words of Francisco Varela: "Now I happenned to be convinced that the natural bridge between the Buddhist tradition and the science is not through the physical science but through the science concerned
with mind and life itself, roughly what we call today the cognitive sciences, and the life sciences, certaintly."
Here is an excelent introduction to the personality and main ideas of this wonderful chilean biologist, philosopher and neuroscientist, Francisco Varela, perhaps well known for developing along with his important mentor Humberto Maturana the concept of autopoiesis.
Francisco Varela studied first medicine then biology in Chile, then did a Ph.D. in biology at Harvard University. He settled in France and taught cognitive science and epistemology at the École Polytechnique, and neuroscience at the University of Paris. He also led a research group at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS)
This is the first of 4 dvd that explore the works of Francisco Varela and his contributions to many other fields.
In this first dvd you can explore Francisco's early life in Chile,his lectures in the United States, interviews to some of his relatives (his wife and sons) and friends, including the Dalai Lama, Heinz von Foerster, Humberto Maturana and Joan Halifax.
You don't have to ignore the big influence of Buddhism in Francisco Varela`s life, that made him a special kind of scientist that was also concern with spiritual dimension of human beings, but always with the rigurosity of a scientist. That is why you can see his name quoted in many philosophy and psychology books.
This dvd is not only for scientific experts, I think is also for people interested in life, death, spiritualiry and the big and ultimate question "What is reality?".
The most important is that this dvd is a beatiful testimony of how a man stood up against his inminent death with peace, something we should all learn.
Other Info about the dvd
-This DVD has a useful interactive menu, where you can see the list of interviews that you found more interesting as well as Francisco Varela's lectures.
-Many bonus materials
You can also visit the official site of the movie: [...]
See him as a human being brings a new world of meanings to his works. Like in Derrida documental, life is the prominent subject of the film, not the ideas (which are fairly good explained by Varela and others). His wives, children, friends and colleagues talk about him and reveal the different faces of this extraordinary scientist.
The appearance of von Foerster in the film is something I wasn't expecting to see and definitely worths watch. His voice of old german, his hands, the way he talks about Varela.
I agree with the other reviewer that it does not go deep into the ideas, but for that we have plenty of books already, and one has to make the homework and start to read. There is no easy way into his thinking. The tittle of the film is quite illuminating in this respect, is not about the papers in nature that he wrote, is about the earth that saw him grew and die.
This film shows a charming guy living a charmed life - with family, friends, a womanizer with a series of girlfriends, wives and children... playing the superstar "scientist" for throngs of New Age sympathizers and Tibetan Buddhists. Varela's contributions to our understanding of, say, consciousness, remain unclear to me. His statements about the mind seemed trivial and general. The autopoiesis idea that he developed with Maturana is simply that - an impractical idea. Interviews about "a new 1st person science" and bridging the subject-object separation seemed more wishful thinking than anything else.
I did like Varela's exhortation for each person (scientist & nonscientist alike) to develop their own perception/inner knowledge. He believes in phenomenology and that is cool.
The interviews with Varela and his wife when he was dying were sad.
I guess the aim of this film was to do a Festschrift, show Varela as a human being. In that the film succeeds.
I liked the naturalness of the Chileans. And the empanada-making was the best.