Saturday, December 18, 2010

"Das Blaue Licht" and "Avatar"

Watching Leni Riefenstahl's Das Blaue Licht ("The Blue Light," 1932), I compare it to James Cameron's Avatar. The story of Riefenstahl's goes like this: a young beautiful woman Junta living with a shepherd boy in the tranquility of the mountains, apart from a village. The villagers think her to be a witch, and responsible for the deaths of the village's young men, who have one by one been lured by the mysterious light from the mountain, tried to climb, and then fallen, on full moon nights. There is a cave filled with crystals in the mountain only Junta can reach. A young painter from a city visiting the village, attracted by her, follows her to her cabin, and stays with her. He finally finds the cave. Thinking that both the villagers and she can benefit from the crystals, he goes back to the village and tells safer way to get to the cave. The villagers greedily collect all the crystals. Junta finds the empty cave and falls to death in despair.

It's like a naive ecology film. A contemporary filmmaker can remake it with some contemporary twist: the painter eventually fights against the villager. Of course, such a remaking makes it worse. The point of the story is that a good intention leads a catastrophe of nature. In this sense, Das Blaue Licht is less hypocrite than Avatar. In terms of aesthetics, I think both share a same kind of romantic idea about nature.

By the way, this Riefenstahl's Junta is surprisingly erotic. For her, nature is erotic: and this idea might be shared by many her contemporaries. ("The beauty of nature" reminds me of some obsolete title of strip shows before I was born.) Wasn't Kurosawa remembering her when he was making The Hidden Fortress? Junta reminds me of Princess Yuki, the model of Princess Leia of Star Wars.There is a scene the painter watches Junta sleeping. The audience can suspect if she is actually inviting him. And he looks very sensitive. (In contrast, there is a young villager who is jerk and rapes her.) The tragedy is that such a sensitive guy apparently becomes responsible for the catastrophe. And I think it's often true.

Susan Sontag, understandably, connects that kind of eroticism with the ideology of fascism. It must be true that Riefenstahl believed in The Third Reich, worked for it, and then obscured her biography later on. My question is: which took over which? I think: first there was the romantic idea of nature; then fascism took over it: and then?

I think some Hollywood blockbusters took over it. The Sound of Music showed the way of climbing every mountain without being challenged by the treacherous slope appearing in Das Blaue Licht. And then, some ecologists...

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