Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. They were the intellectual power couple of the 20th century. Some have called Sartre the father of Existentialism. But perhaps it’s more accurate to call him the chief popularizer of the philosophical movement. And Simone de Beauvoir, she wrote The Second Sex, the sprawling 1949 tome that laid the intellectual foundation for second-wave feminism that exploded during the 1960s.
The two philosophers first became an item in October 1929, but it was never a traditional relationship. They neither married nor shared the same living quarters, and they famously had an open relationship. But, as de Beauvoir said, “The comradeship that welded our lives together made a superfluous mockery of any other bond we might have forged for ourselves.”
They were a powerful couple, writes Louis Menand in The New Yorker, “with independent lives, who met in cafés, where they wrote their books and saw their friends at separate tables… but who maintained a kind of soul marriage.” Whatever your personal views, you need to consider this: The relationship worked for Sartre and de Beauvoir for 50 years.
Despite their celebrity, we’ve rarely come across footage of the two philosophers together. So we’re bringing you this — a rare clip from a 1967 documentary filmed at Sartre’s Montparnasse high-rise apartment, overlooking the cemetery where the two philosophers were eventually buried. Somewhat fittingly, we see the two intellectuals, but never in the same frame. You can purchase the complete film for educational use here.