OK, OK, here are some snowy images from Arnold Fanck’s THE HOLY MOUNTAIN. It really is a most gorgeous film. Although the “mountain film” genre was some kind of a favourite in 30s Germany, I struggle to find any really sinister ideology in it. The worst you could say is that it favours male friendship over heterosexual love. The love of nature does feed into the whole Hitler Youth cult, but is actually pretty innocuous by itself.
Luis Trenker is the principle male object of beauty on display, his face as rugged as The Dreadful North Face of the Santos where he eventually risks death. Or if, rugged manliness isn’t your thing, the film also offers, in defiance of logic and history, Ron Mael from Sparks —
But the scenic splendour is the whole show, magnificently captured by Fanck’s team of cameramen. Not only the big scenic shots with tiny posed figures for scale (all arranged without the aid of walkie-talkies!), but the details and inserts too.
Hey, remember how Werner Herzog made a mountain film, SCREAM OF STONE? Remember how it stank? Actually, Herzog’s recovery from that prolonged period of seeming irrelevant and washed-up is arguably as remarkable as Polanski’s. Herzog had the advantage of his documentary career, which never declined as much as his feature-film reputation, but his documentaries now loom much larger in his legend than they originally did.
Fanck was a documentarist too, which shows in his foregrounding of the scenic and his insistence on reality in the mountaineering stuff. Also in how all this is more significant than plot, which is minimized so each photographic opportunity can be fully exploited for the greatest viable duration. He’s rather good at keeping the balance.
With Herzog, it generally comes out in the freakish “reality” of what he’s filming, whether it be the boat going up the hill, the dwarfism of his entire cast, or Christian Bayle losing lots of weight (again).
What with Christmas on the way and all —