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The Owl's Legacy: Mathematics, or the Empire Counts Back

The Owl's Legacy: Mathematics, or the Empire Counts Back

“Historians say Utopia doesn’t exist. It does! It’s the geometric space where everything is proven.” --Michel Serres

There is a narrative about ancient Greece and math: That the Greeks invented mathematics as we know it, that men such as Pythagoras and Thales were its fathers, and that concepts including parallel lines and geometric shapes are universal and ahistorical.

After introducing us to this view, Marker sets about dismantling it—or at least questioning its universality and introducing much more uncertainty. Study of ancient Egyptian texts show mathematical concepts; algebra comes from the Arab world, and the nascent world of computing, artificial intelligence, and quantum mechanics are rooted in doubt and uncertainty.

Featuring fun math-themed animated segments, along with excerpts from a campy 1984 production in which a young woman in a dress that evokes ancient Greek style breathily explains mathematical concepts.

“We should raze the Sorbonne and put Chris Marker in its place.” —Henri Michaux

The primary pleasure of the series, which is incredibly inspiring, is linked to this great banquet of participants, the sum of knowledge they invoke, but above all to the playful flows the editing establishes between their ideas, constructing a formidable network of meanings, historical and cultural perspectives -  a veritable encyclopedia of development." —Le Monde

“Why did we have to wait so long for this electrifyingly intelligent film?” —Le Point

“Thirteen words to uncover an entire civilization and reestablish its considerable influence on our modern societies.” —Les Inrockuptibles

“With erudition, Chris Marker questions in each episode what remains Greek within us.” —Philosophie Magazine


Main credits

Marker, Chris (film director)
Peck, Bob (narrator)
Dombasle, Arielle (actor)

Other credits

Music, Eleni Karaindrou [and 4 others]; camerapersons, Pierre Dupouey, Jimmy Glasberg, Sandor Krasna; editing team, Khadicha Bariha, Nedjma Scialom.

Docuseek2 subjects

Distributor subjects

Historical Anthropology
Ancient Greece
Chris Marker


"The Owl's Legacy"; Icarus Films; France; Chris Marker; Ancient Greece; culture; ,doc,art; history; science; shod

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