Print this post Print this post

The Holy Mountain, Part 1

4,959 words

Part 1 of 2

1. Introduction: “A Lofty Humanity and Eternal Blondeness”

The Holy Mountain (Der Heilige Berg, 1926) is the greatest of the German “mountain films” and the prototype for all the rest. My review of the recent film North Face (Nordwand) discussed this genre, its essential characteristics, and why it should be of interest to readers of Counter-Currents.

The German mountain film was more or less invented by Dr. Arnold Fanck, a geologist by training. As a child, Fanck suffered from severe asthma and was sent to live in Davos, Switzerland. Not only did his condition improve, he fell in love with the Alps and, for the rest of Fanck’s life, the mountains were his obsession. During the First World War, Fanck worked for German military intelligence. An ardent nationalist, anti-Semite, and admirer of Adolf Hitler, Fanck joined the NSDAP in the 1930s.

Since 1945, Fanck’s mountain films have often been linked by critics and film historians to the rise of National Socialism. The most notorious example of this is Siegfried Kracauer (1889–1966), a Jewish film critic for the Frankfurter Zeitung and friend of Theodor Adorno. Kracauer’s influential 1947 book From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological History of the German Film, argued that Fanck’s films had helped pave the way for the Nazis. Given Fanck’s sympathies, of course, Kracauer’s claim was at least partially true. However, the arguments he offers in support of it are often extremely weak. (At one point, for example, he claims that the scenes of clouds in Fanck’s Storm Over Mont Blanc influenced Leni Riefenstahl’s use of clouds at the beginning of Triumph of the Will; ergo, National Socialism.)

Dr. Arnold Fanck

In fact, the connections between the Fanck films and National Socialism were debated at the time of their release. National Socialist critics, writing in publications like Völkischer Beobachter, praised Fanck’s films as urdeutsch.[1] Leftist critics often reviled them. One wrote that The Holy Mountain was “blatant propaganda for a lofty humanity and eternal blondeness.” Another wrote, “There’s more insufferable bluster and devious, deceptive hot air here than at twenty Hitler rallies put together.”[2] (In truth, there had long been a connection between “Alpinism” and a kind of pan-German nationalism, with some alpine clubs adopting bylaws that excluded non-Aryans.)

The Fanck films involved often dangerous location shooting that was both time-consuming and costly. His first films were documentaries with little or no commentary. Distributors considered the films so boring and naïve that none would deal with him. Fanck responded by advertising the films himself and showing them in rented halls. Unexpectedly, they caught on with the public.

Why exactly did they become so popular with the German public? Julius Evola gives us a clue when he writes of “the generation of the crisis,” which was “by and large, is a German product”:

Out of an obscure need for an organic, biological, and even psychic compensation, and out of an instinctive revolt against a civilization that had become synonymous with dry intellectualism, with mechanical forces, with utilitarianism, and with conformism, what has occurred is an exodus toward nature and the emergence of an absolute need for the mountain to represent that which is anti-city and anti-culture. Thus, what has arisen is a new primitivist mysticism in regard to nature and the sports practiced in nature.[3]

In short, the mountain films were part of a reaction against modernity: against city life, against the loss of regional identity, against technology, and against all the modern forces that conspire to destroy the possibility of heroism. They were a reaffirmation of connectedness to nature, of national identity, of local folk culture, of the positive effects of struggle, of traditional conceptions of masculinity and femininity. They were a form of escape for urban Germans: escape to a realm of authentic life-affirmation and idealism.

UFA, the major German studio, offered Fanck 300,000 marks to make a new mountain film, on condition that it have a plot. This was, ultimately, the genesis of The Holy Mountain.

However, it is unlikely that the film would ever have been made had Leni Riefenstahl not missed a doctor’s appointment sometime in the summer of 1924. The 23-year-old Riefenstahl had already established herself as a successful interpretive dancer, thanks to the backing of producer Harry Sokal, when she suffered a knee injury which threatened to end her career. She made an appointment to see a specialist and went to the Nollendorfplatz U-bahn station to wait for the train.

Scene from "The Mountain of Destiny"

Across the tracks, she saw a poster of Fanck’s film Der Berg des Schicksals (Mountain of Destiny), starring Luis Trenker in his first role. Riefenstahl stood looking at the poster, transfixed. It depicted skier Hannes Schneider engaged in some dangerous maneuver. Riefenstahl’s train came and went. Forgetting about her appointment entirely, she left the station and headed to the nearest theater showing Berg des Schicksals, which she subsequently saw several more times.

Riefenstahl was fascinated by Fanck’s icy mountain landscapes and by the obvious risks taken by all those involved in the film. She resolved that, one way or another, she would become involved in Fanck’s productions.

Riefenstahl traveled to the Dolomites with Harry Sokal, where she fell in love with the landscape. At the Karersee Hotel a special screening of Berg des Schicksals was planned, with Luis Trenker making a personal appearance. Trenker was a former South Tirol mountain guide who had studied to be an architect. He would go on to become a director in his own right, becoming a kind of national institution in Germany. His films — with their emphasis upon the purity of rural life (especially in the mountains) and the decadence of cities – fit perfectly with National Socialist ideology. However, though he was a party member, his relationship with the regime was not always an easy one.

Luis Trenker

Sokal introduced Riefenstahl to Trenker, who boldly announced that she would be co-starring with him in his next mountain film. Though it is hard to imagine how he could not have been instantly charmed by her beauty and audacity, Trenker was an egomaniac who likely saw her as a threat. He was not encouraging. Undeterred, Riefenstahl took her leave of him with the words, “See you in the next film.”

On their return to Berlin, Sokal arranged a meeting between Riefenstahl and Arnold Fanck, which took place in a café on the Kurfürstendamm. Fanck was strangely shy and subdued throughout this meeting, which Riefenstahl took as a lack of interest. She couldn’t have been more mistaken. Shortly thereafter, Fanck wrote to Trenker that Riefenstahl was “the most beautiful woman in Europe” and would soon be “the most famous woman in Germany.”[4] Fanck, a reticent and highly intellectual man, was deeply in love with the young dancer.

Soon after their meeting, Riefenstahl went into the hospital for what turned out to be successful knee surgery. During her three-month convalescence, she received a surprise visit from Fanck, who handed her a film script inscribed with the words “The Holy Mountain: Written for the Dancer Leni Riefenstahl.” He had written it in just three days and three nights.

One factor in Fanck’s decision to cast Riefenstahl was that Harry Sokal (who was also in love with her) had agreed to pay 25 percent of the cost of The Holy Mountain. Still, it is very clear that Fanck needed little persuasion. Once Riefenstahl was sufficiently mobile, she journeyed to Freiburg and stayed with Fanck in his mother’s home. There, she became acquainted with Fanck’s vast library and his art collection. By her own account, Fanck became her intellectual mentor. He bestowed countless gifts on her (including editions of Nietzsche), but though Riefenstahl revered Fanck, she did not love him.

She did, however, see Trenker as a potential lover. When he arrived to begin planning the film, Fanck soon detected their mutual attraction. The result was a fistfight which Riefenstahl only managed to break up by climbing out onto the ledge of her room and threatening to jump. Fanck also apparently attempted suicide by jumping into the river. Riefenstahl worried that these conflicts and resentments had the potential to wreck their project, and her film debut.

In the end, however, it only helped make The Holy Mountain a more powerful film. After all, the plot, as we shall see, involves a love triangle in which the most sympathetic character is a lonely, introverted man-of-the-mountains (Trenker), who imagines that his great love (Riefenstahl) has spurned him for another man. Cinematic brilliance has often been forged in the fire of off-screen conflict.

A real-life love triangle was not the only problem to beset the production of The Holy Mountain. Reading Riefenstahl’s account of things, it sometimes seems that the whole project was cursed. Cinematographer and expert skier Hans Schneeberger (with whom Riefenstahl would later be romantically involved) cracked his spine — but not before Riefenstahl broke her ankle taking skiing lessons from Schneeberger. Ernst Petersen, also an expert skier and nephew of Fanck, broke his foot. He was to play the young Vigo, the third member of the on-screen triangle. And all of these accidents occurred shortly before filming was set to begin. Things became so dire that UFA talked about canceling the whole project. In the end, filming took place over the course of two winters, since accidents and terrible weather continually created delays.

The result, however, is not only the classic mountain film, but one of the greatest German silent films. (The fact that it has received a great deal less attention than other German films of the period has to be attributed to the presence of the controversial Riefenstahl, and the problematic “ideology” of the mountain films.)

2. Prelude

The Holy Mountain begins with the following notice: “The well-known sportsmen who participated in the making of The Holy Mountain ask the audience not to mistake their performances for trick photography. All shots taken outdoors were actually made in the mountains, in the most beautiful parts of the Alps, over the course of one and a half years. The big ski race is performed by German, Norwegian, and Austrian master skiers. The screenplay to this motion picture was inspired by actual events that occurred during a twenty-year period in the life of the great mountains.”[5] The reasons for this announcement are fairly obvious. Reports about the dangerous conditions under which the mountain films were made helped generate publicity, but some cynical souls expressed doubt about the authenticity of Fanck’s images. Understandably, he was indignant about this and sought to set the record straight. Indeed, virtually every “stunt” in Fanck’s films was real, and was performed by the actors themselves, not by stunt doubles.

This opening, however, creates an odd atmosphere. All of Fanck’s films hover strangely between fantasy and reality, none more so than The Holy Mountain. Not only do the actors perform their own stunts, as we shall see they are often identified on screen by their real names. Many of them are not professional actors at all, and are identified by their actual occupations. Some (e.g. Hannes Schneider and Ernst Udet) play themselves. Stories are frequently interrupted by sporting events, which have only the most tenuous connection to the plot. And these are handled in documentary fashion, the scenes in The Holy Mountain punctuated by what amounts to sports commentary (!).

This reflects a tension in Fanck himself between the scientist and the artist. His films are filled with reverence for science, which he portrays as fundamentally virile, but they also display the most refined poetic sensitivity. The result is that one does not have to suspend disbelief nearly as much as one does watching other films, for so much of what one sees in a Fanck film is real. And one comes away with tremendous respect for all involved. (This is something that has been forgotten by today’s purveyors of the CGI-laden action film: it just doesn’t mean as much if one knows that it was all a bloody cartoon.)[6]

The Fanck films break down the distinction between real and ideal. They present a kind of idealized reality (not a purely fake reality, as do other films), in which real people in real danger are placed within a framework of meaning devised by the intellect and imagination of Dr. Fanck. As we shall see, this framework is rich with philosophical and psychological depth.

The first shot of The Holy Mountain is a split screen image, and it is the key to understanding the meaning of the entire film. The upper part shows a mountain range which we will see frequently throughout the film. (Within it we will find our holy mountain.) The lower part of the screen shows the sea. What we see here is the eternal masculine (the mountains) juxtaposed to the eternal feminine (the sea). This is the subject matter of The Holy Mountain.

The film is in part a pessimistic fable on the relations between the sexes, which Fanck sees as metaphysically different. Beyond this, it is a meditation on the nature of male friendship and loyalty, which Fanck sees as imperiled by the intrusion of the feminine into the lives of men. The influence of Otto Weininger’s Sex and Character (Geschlecht und Charakter) on Fanck is unmistakable here.

However, The Holy Mountain cannot be dismissed as simply misogyny. Fanck sees the ideal as “higher” than nature, but his film celebrates nature as well. The Holy Mountain is not a call to reject the feminine. It is a dark fable affirming the inescapable yet inherently tragic nature of the male-female relation. Fanck seeks to present things as they are, not as they ought to be, and he sees tragedy woven into the fabric of human existence. Biographically, the film also clearly reflects the idealistic, introverted Fanck’s own struggle to come to terms with his desire for the the feminine.

The opening “notice” is followed by an intertitle: “A Drama Poem with scenes from nature by Dr. Arnold Fanck. Dedicated to my late friend Dr. Hans Rhode with reverence.” (I can find no information on Rhode.) Fanck credits himself in the following way: “Nature photography: Dr. Arnold Fanck and his Freiburg School.” Here again we find Fanck presenting himself as the scientist — not just the director of a film set, but the founder of a “school.” In addition to Hans Schneeberger, Sepp Allgeier is credited as camera operator. Allgeier would later work with Riefenstahl on Triumph of the Will. The cast, including Riefenstahl, is listed under the heading “The Sportsmen” (Die Sportsleute), again breaking down the distinction between fantasy and reality. (These are not actors, these are athletes!) Only Frida Richard, as “the mother” is listed separately under “The Actress” (Die Schauspielerin).[vii]

The dramatic first shot of “The Prelude” is a close-up of Riefenstahl as the dancer Diotima, eyes closed. Then we see her on the rocks beside the sea. “There, where the rock falls steeply and defiantly into the surf . . . is her home — ”

These rocky, desolate sequences were shot in Heligoland (in German, Helgoland) a small German archipelago in the North Sea. The local population are ethnic Frisians who speak their own dialect of the North Frisian language, called Halunder.

Heligoland was originally called Heyligeland, and “Heylige” in modern German is “Heilige,” “holy,” as in the title of our film, Heilige Berg. So, Diotima dances in a holy land by the ocean, just as later we will see that the male protagonist’s world is Monte Santo, the holy mountain. Both sea and mountain, masculine and feminine, are divine objects. (Incidentally, Heligoland was probably named such because of its association with the Norse god Forsetti, a god of justice.)

Fanck shows us a double exposure of Diotima against the water: “The sea is her love, wild – boundless. But her life is her dance – the expression of her stormy soul.”

And now Riefenstahl begins to dance. Opinions differ on the quality of her dancing, some seeing it as beautiful, others as awkward and strange (one Amazon reviewer of the DVD described it as “galumphing”). Adolf Hitler belonged to the former camp, telling one of his adjutants that “The most beautiful thing I have ever seen in a film was Riefenstahl’s dance on the sea in The Holy Mountain.” Hitler later repeated this judgment to Riefenstahl.[8] An intertitle reads at this point “Diotima’s Dance to the sea — Diotima: Dancer Leni Riefenstahl.” Apparently, Fanck lowered a violinist down the cliff so that Riefenstahl could dance to live music (though she reported that she could barely hear him play over the sound of the waves crashing against the rocks). Fanck’s direction of this scene is truly impressive, especially his use of slow motion.

In The Metaphysics of Sex, Julius Evola notes that “the waters” are a traditional, esoteric symbol for the feminine:

The Waters embody various meanings; first they represent the undifferentiated life prior to and not yet fixed in form; second, they symbolize that which runs or flows and is therefore unstable and changeable, hence the principle of everything that submits to procreation and becoming in the unpredictable world, which was called sublunar by the ancients; last, they also represent the principle of all fertility and growth according to the analogy of water’s fertilizing action on earth and soil.

Evola continues, linking the waters to the “horizontal” principle, which stands opposed to the vertical, “the category of ‘standing’ or ékhein in the specific sense of standing up or standing straight; this association with the male principle was expressed in ancient times by the phallic and ithyphallic symbolism of the erect penis.”[9] Obviously, the “vertical” principle is represented in the film by the holy mountain itself, with which the male protagonist is closely associated. (It is not much of a stretch, furthermore, to see a mountain as an ithyphallic symbol.)

This is also probably as good a place as any to say something about the name “Diotima” itself. Fanck lifted this name, of course, from Plato’s Symposium, in which Socrates tells the story of how he was tutored in the nature of love and beauty by a wisewoman, Diotima of Mantinea (her name literally means “honored by the god”). Our only source for Diotima is Plato’s dialogue, in which the only other piece of information given about her is that she saved the Athenians from a plague by telling them what sacrifices to make. Scholars have long debated whether she was an actual person or a fictitious one, but no one really knows for sure. (For our purposes this doesn’t matter, but given that virtually every other character name in Plato’s dialogues has turned out to be the name of an actual person, there is a high likelihood that she really existed.) It is Diotima who expounds, in a “flashback,” the famous “ladder of beauty.”

As we shall see, the Diotima of the film is obsessed by beauty. When she refers to it in Fanck’s dialogue, much later in the film, she does not use the more natural Schönheit, but instead the rather “platonic” das Schöne (The Beautiful). In the dialogue, Diotima’s “ladder of beauty” is a way to insight into the nature of the beautiful as such, which Plato believed to be an eternal Form transcending nature. The first step on the ladder involves seeing beauty in some body or other. One then graduates to seeing beauty in all bodies. This is followed by a still higher achievement: recognizing beauty in a human soul. One then finds beauty in such things as institutions and laws, then in various kinds of knowledge, whereupon the lover “is turned to the great sea of beauty, and, gazing upon this, he gives birth to many gloriously beautiful ideas and theories, in unstinting love of wisdom [philosophia], until, having grown and been strengthened there, he catches sight of . . . something wonderfully beautiful in its nature.”[10]

Unike the Diotima of the dialogue, however, the one in the film is not a wisewoman. She is naïve and unconsciously destructive. Further, she appears to be caught at a lower level of the “ladder”: obsessed by physical beauty; the beauty of nature. Throughout the film, she continually yearns to be “taken up” onto the mountain by the male protagonist, whom she takes as her lover. In the end, we will see that Diotima’s encounter with him represents her overcoming of the obsession with physical beauty, and her turn toward the beauty of the soul. Her love for him, and her eventual ascent up the mountain, represent her own ladder of beauty. On one level, the film thus tells the story of the education of Diotima – of her attainment of wisdom, at great cost to herself, and others.

To return to our story, looking out over the water Riefenstahl’s Diotima catches sight of something that is indeed wonderfully beautiful: she sees the mountains over the sea (that trick shot again), and then a man (Luis Trenker) standing at the edge of a cliff. We see him in profile against the clouds, reminiscent of the famous Caspar David Friedrich painting “The Wanderer above the Sea of Fog.” His profile and bearing are extraordinarily dignified and noble.

An intertitle tells us: “And so Diotima dances . . . dances to satiate her longing for him — whom she has seen only in her dreams – atop the highest mountain peak.” The eternal horizontal has now encountered the eternal vertical: the cinematic Diotima has caught sight of the Ideal above nature – though only for a brief, uncomprehended moment.

Thus ends the “Prelude” to the film.

In The Metaphysics of Sex, Evola discusses the Tantric duality of Shiva and Shakti at length. He tells us that Shiva, the primordial male principle, has an “Olympian” character. Shakti, his consort, represents the “energy of all becoming and all motion.” Further:

[A] non-acting originating function is attributed to the male, to Shiva; he determines motion and awakens Shakti; only the latter, however, truly acts, moves, and generates. . . . Shiva is present in the unchangeable, conscious, spiritual, and stable aspect, while Shakti is present in the changeable, unconscious-vital, natural, and dynamic aspect of everything that exists.[11]

For Evola, Tantra here expresses the Traditional conception of the masculine and the feminine – which is the reverse of how things are seen in the Kali Yuga, in which it is the male who is supposed to be “active” (all busi-ness), and the female “passive.” The Holy Mountain reflects the traditional conception: it is the man on the mountain – solitary, Olympian, spiritually virile — who awakens Diotima, the personification of life, fecundity, and energy.

3. “Two friends from the mountains.”

Ernst Petersen and Luis Trenker

We now see the mysterious object of Diotima’s love on a high, jutting rock, accompanied by a younger man. Curiously, Luis Trenker’s character is never identified by name in the entire film. He is referred to only as “the Friend.” (Some adulterated, foreign versions of the film give him a name, however.) An intertitle reads as follows “The Friend — Engineer Trenker.” The “engineer” is a reference to Trenker’s training as an architect. This is a curious way to identify an actor, as is the omission of his first name (Kino’s American-release DVD “corrects” this).

With him is young Ernst Petersen in the role of “Vigo” (usually “Viggo,” this is a common Scandinavian name meaning “warlike”). His intertitle reads “Vigo — Medical Student Petersen,” apparently because Ernst Petersen was attending medical school when he wasn’t appearing in mountain films. (I can find almost nothing about Petersen, aside from one source which claims that he died in 1930.)

Trenker has handsome, chiseled features, but his face also has a brutal quality and the capacity to seem quite dark and sinister at times. By contrast, Petersen has an extremely boyish, almost neotenous quality and appears to be no more than 18 or 19 years old (Trenker was 32 in 1924).

The scene then shifts to the Grand Hotel (the specific location is never stated in the film, but it is Zermatt). Vigo and the Friend have now descended from their mountain perch and while Vigo goes off on his own, the Friend enters the hotel. He sees a poster with a lovely picture of Riefenstahl, announcing that Diotima will dance on the stage of the Grand Hotel that very evening. The Friend is captivated by Diotima’s image. He seems both enchanted and befuddled, as if he has never experienced such feelings before.

That evening, Vigo and the Friend attend the performance, seated together in a box. On stage, Diotima reenacts her dance by the sea (described in an intertitle as a “dance of desire”). The reactions of Vigo and the Friend are very different. Vigo seems excited, happy, and eager. Perhaps also a bit titillated. The Friend seems subdued yet emotionally moved, almost as if the performance causes him pain. Riefenstahl, wearing a gossamer gown, dances a second dance called “Dream Blossom.” And this time her performance is undeniably beautiful. At a certain point, the Friend leaves the box. Vigo, not realizing that he has left, turns and remarks “You . . . she looks like a holy one.”

When Diotima finishes, the audience goes wild. Their hands stretch out for her in a manner strongly reminiscent of the hands stretched toward Hitler, saluting him, in Triumph of the Will. Backstage in her dressing room, Diotima asks someone “Were any people from the mountains here?”

As if in a trance, Vigo leaves the Grand Hotel and approaches Diotima’s chauffeur-driven convertible, which waits for her at the entrance. He takes an edelweiss from his lapel and places it on the inside of the car door. Just then, Diotima emerges from the hotel, her admirers swarming around her. She sees Vigo, and notes his rustic leggings. He grins at her sheepishly, almost in a parody of bashfulness, while Diotima gets into her car and calls him over. “Did you see me dance? What did you enjoy most?” Vigo does not answer. Instead, he takes her scarf from her and puts it around his head, grinning and winking ludicrously, effeminately. Diotima finds this uproariously funny and she laughs as the car whisks her away. As she disappears into the darkness, her grinning face takes on a skull-like quality, for one fleeting moment.

Vigo’s grotesque “drag show” with the scarf is an instance of a recurring element in Fanck’s films. His chief male protagonists generally tend to be in the “Friend” mode: simple, laconic, and spiritually virile. Often, however, they are contrasted with another male who is portrayed as appealing, yet fundamentally unmasculine. One sees this same pattern in The White Hell of Piz Palü and Storm Over Mont Blanc (in which Petersen also appears in drag!). Vigo is portrayed as weaker than the Friend, and as barely more than a boy. The scene with the scarf communicates in as direct a manner as possible his androgyny and lack of masculine strength. (The Friend would never have put on such a performance!)

An intertitle informs us: “But the friend rushes upward, high into his mountains, to become master of his overwhelming impressions.” We now see the Friend trudging up into his world of ice and snow – intercut with Diotima in her dressing room, gazing out the window at the mountains. The suggestion is that she is aware of his presence. Most of the interiors of The Holy Mountain were shot in UFA’s Berlin studios, at the exact same time that Lang’s Metropolis and Murnau’s Faust were being shot on other soundstages. The mountains outside Diotima’s window appear to be a painted studio backdrop, illuminated now and then by flashes of light.

Notes

1. Jürgen Trimborn, Leni Riefenstahl: A Life, trans. Edna McCown (Faber and Faber, 2007), 36.

2. Quoted in Trimborn, 35.

3. Julius Evola, Meditations on the Peaks: Mountain Climbing as Metaphor for the Spiritual Quest, trans. Guido Stucco (Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions, 1998), 19.

4. Quoted in Trimborn, 29.

5. The Holy Mountain was released on DVD in America in 2003 by Kino International. This restored version features intertitles newly translated into English. However, as is the case with a number of Kino’s other silent German releases, the translation is often very loose, and sometimes flat-out wrong. I have therefore re-translated many of the intertitles for this essay. Where I thought Kino’s translation adequate I have simply quoted it, as is the case with this long passage. Aside from the errors in translation, I can highly recommend this DVD. The quality of the print is excellent. The restored version with original German intertitles is available from a German company and viewable (for American audiences) only on a region-free player. However, the entire German version is currently available on YouTube (as Der Heilige Berg), divided into seven segments: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6U934UHN9LA

6. And this is why North Face, for all its technical sophistication and good intentions, ultimately fails to reproduce the excitement and immediacy of a Fanck film. (It makes up for this, however, through dramatic depth.)

7. The original score for the film was written by Edmund Meisel, a very important figure in early European film music. However, for its DVD release Kino commissioned a new score by Alijoscha Zimmerman, perhaps because the Meisel score has been lost. Zimmerman contributed effective scores for Kino’s releases of The Golem and Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler. At first, I found his Holy Mountain score to be jarring and a trifle entartete. However, it grew on me. Zimmerman’s music for Diotima’s dances on the stage of the Grand Hotel Zermatt is particularly beautiful.

8. Leni Riefenstahl, Leni Riefenstahl: A Memoir, no translator credited (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1992), 105.

9. Julius Evola, The Metaphysics of Sex (Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions, 1983), 119.

10. Plato, Symposium, trans. Alexander Nehamas and Paul Woodruff (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 1989), 58 (210D-E).

11. Evola, The Metaphysics of Sex, 122.

If you enjoyed this piece, and wish to encourage more like it, give a tip through Paypal. You can earmark your tip directly to the author or translator, or you can put it in a general fund. (Be sure to specify which in the "Add special instructions to seller" box at Paypal.)

One Comment

  1. Petronius
    Posted July 18, 2011 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    I still regard The White Hell of Piz Palü, co-directed by Pabst, as Fanck’s (and the genre’s) masterpiece. There are stunning, visionary shots and sequences in The Holy Mountain, especially Leni’s dancing with the waves is impressive, but the screenplay is very awkward and for today’s audiences the acting suffers a lot from bad melodrama and silent movie mannerisms (especially on Trenker’s part, who hams it up badly). The movie tries too hard to be “art,” but ends up only in an embarrassingly cliched conception of it. There is too much posing and too much overblown pathos.

    Fanck was still searching for a storytelling style he would feel comfortable with at this point. The Holy Mountain was his feature film debut, and is more like a transitional work between his early mountain and skiing documentaries to dramatic films. I think his movies worked far better, when he dropped the all-too high pretensions and the all-too allegoric parts. Unlike the Scandinavians, who loved to shoot outdoors, German filmmakers of the 1920s tended to prefer imagination over reality, the creation of fantastic dream worlds in the studio, and found it initially difficult to approach realism. Whenever they achieved to combine the two, realism and imagination, the result was sublime, as in Murnau’s Nosferatu (which uses mostly location shots and only a few sets) or in Fanck’s later movies such as Piz Palü. The “Cathedral of Ice” that appears in a vision in The Holy Mountain looks marvelous, but it doesn’t really organically fit into the film. It is just a showcase, in essence no different from the skiing stunts. The mystique of the mountains and of mountain climbing was paradoxically stronger, when Fanck dropped the deliberately “mystic” elements. Leni Riefenstahl picked them up again in The Blue Light with a feminine sensibility, and here they worked far better. Luis Trenker’s approach in his own films on the other hand was totally down-to-earth.

  • Video of the Day:

  • Kindle Subscription
  • Our Titles

    The Eldritch Evola

    Western Civilization Bites Back

    New Right vs. Old Right

    Lost Violent Souls

    Journey Late at Night: Poems and Translations

    The Non-Hindu Indians & Indian Unity

    Baader Meinhof ceramic pistol, Charles Kraaft 2013

    The Lightning and the Sun

    Jonathan Bowden as Dirty Harry

    The Lost Philosopher, Second Expanded Edition

    Trevor Lynch's A White Nationalist Guide to the Movies

    And Time Rolls On

    The Homo & the Negro

    Artists of the Right

    North American New Right, Vol. 1

    Forever and Ever

    Some Thoughts on Hitler

    Tikkun Olam and Other Poems

    Under the Nihil

    Summoning the Gods

    Hold Back This Day

    The Columbine Pilgrim

    Confessions of a Reluctant Hater

    Taking Our Own Side

    Toward the White Republic

    Distributed Titles

    Carl Schmitt Today

    A Sky Without Eagles

    The Way of Men

    Generation Identity

    Nietzsche's Coming God

    The Conservative

    The New Austerities

    Convergence of Catastrophes

    Demon

    Proofs of a Conspiracy

    Fascism viewed from the Right

    The Wagnerian Drama

    Fascism viewed from the Right

    Notes on the Third Reich

    Morning Crafts

    New Culture, New Right

    An eagle with a shield soaring upwards

    A Life in the Political Wilderness

    The Fourth Political Theory

    The Passing of the Great Race

    The Passing of a Profit & Other Forgotten Stories

    Fighting for the Essence

    The Arctic Home in the Vedas

    The Prison Notes

    It Cannot Be Stormed

    Revolution from Above

    The Proclamation of London

    Beyond Human Rights

    The WASP Question

    Can Life Prevail?

    The Jewish Strategy

    The Metaphysics of War

    A Handbook of Traditional Living

    The French Revolution in San Domingo

    The Revolt Against Civilization

    Why We Fight

    The Problem of Democracy

    Archeofuturism

    The Path of Cinnabar

    Tyr

    Siege

    On Being a Pagan

    The Lost Philosopher

    The Dispossessed Majority

    Might is Right

    Impeachment of Man

    Gold in the Furnace

    Defiance