The Alps as Symbol of National Identity

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Title: The Alps as Symbol of National Identity An Analysis of the German Bergfilm
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: White, Lauren
Publisher: New College of Florida
Place of Publication: Sarasota, Fla.
Creation Date: 2010
Publication Date: 2010


Subjects / Keywords: German Film
German History � 20th Century
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
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Electronic Thesis or Dissertation


Abstract: Alpinism gradually emerged as a cultural practice in German-speaking Europe over the course of the 19th century and 20th century. The Bergfilme, or mountain films, of the 1920s and 1930s were the first representations of alpinism accessible to the whole of Germany, regardless of geography or income. They thus constituted an essential element in the national perception of the Alps and alpinism. The films appeared around the era of an increasing politicization of the Alps, as war and the rise of reactionary politics began to appropriate the mountains as a symbol to their own ends. This thesis will examine the history of the alpinist movement, tracing it from its origins and ultimately focusing on its manifestations in the first decades of the 20th century. It will also examine a selection of mountain films to explore the ways in which German identity is represented on screen, focusing on the relationship between person and nature, the development of the Alps as a German cultural realm, and the legacy of Romanticism.
Statement of Responsibility: by Lauren White
Thesis: Thesis (B.A.) -- New College of Florida, 2010
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The New College of Florida, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Local: Faculty Sponsor: Cuomo, Glenn

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Source Institution: New College of Florida
Holding Location: New College of Florida
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Classification: local - S.T. 2010 W5
System ID: NCFE004347:00001

Permanent Link:

Material Information

Title: The Alps as Symbol of National Identity An Analysis of the German Bergfilm
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: White, Lauren
Publisher: New College of Florida
Place of Publication: Sarasota, Fla.
Creation Date: 2010
Publication Date: 2010


Subjects / Keywords: German Film
German History � 20th Century
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation


Abstract: Alpinism gradually emerged as a cultural practice in German-speaking Europe over the course of the 19th century and 20th century. The Bergfilme, or mountain films, of the 1920s and 1930s were the first representations of alpinism accessible to the whole of Germany, regardless of geography or income. They thus constituted an essential element in the national perception of the Alps and alpinism. The films appeared around the era of an increasing politicization of the Alps, as war and the rise of reactionary politics began to appropriate the mountains as a symbol to their own ends. This thesis will examine the history of the alpinist movement, tracing it from its origins and ultimately focusing on its manifestations in the first decades of the 20th century. It will also examine a selection of mountain films to explore the ways in which German identity is represented on screen, focusing on the relationship between person and nature, the development of the Alps as a German cultural realm, and the legacy of Romanticism.
Statement of Responsibility: by Lauren White
Thesis: Thesis (B.A.) -- New College of Florida, 2010
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The New College of Florida, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Local: Faculty Sponsor: Cuomo, Glenn

Record Information

Source Institution: New College of Florida
Holding Location: New College of Florida
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: local - S.T. 2010 W5
System ID: NCFE004347:00001

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THE ALPS AS SYMBOL OF NATIONAL IDENTITY: AN ANALYSIS OF THE GERMAN BERGFILM BY LAUREN WHITE A Thesis Submitted to the Division of Humanities New College of Florida In partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Bachelor of Arts Under the sponsorship of Dr. Glenn Cuomo Sarasota, Florida April, 2010


To m y parents ii


Acknowledgm ents Thanks are due first and foremost to my sponsor, Dr. Glenn Cuomo, for his constant support throughout my New College career and espe cially throughout the thesis process, his sponsorship of numerous tuto rials and my semester abroad, and overall engagement with my academic success. I am also highly indebted to Dr. Wendy Sutherland for her encouragement of my German studies, as well as Dr. David Harvey for igniting my passion for history; both have been instrumental in the development of this thesis. Additionally, I owe a huge debt of grat itude to Roman Giesen, the instructor at LMU in Munich whose seminar constitute d the basis of this thesis, and who wholeheartedly welcomed me into his classroom. Nina, Alice, and Lindsey were my cons tant sources of moral support and comic relief throughout this past y ear; their presence has truly b een a blessing. Adam, Lee, and William have made my job a haven, for which I am exceedingly thankful; their friendships (and roommateships, as well as th eir sharing of tasty lunch food) during my years in Sarasota have been invaluable The Cranbrook Wilderness Expedition lit and nourished the flame that inspired me to write on this topic, and my very dear cadre of fellow weekend Alpine wandere rs from my months in Muni ch likewise encouraged my fascination with the mountains. Finally, my parents have been excee dingly supportive throughout my college years; their love for me and dedication to my education truly enabled me to reach this point. My thesis is dedicated to them. iii


Table of Contents D edication ii Acknowledgments iii List of Illustrations v Abstract vii 1. Introduction 1 2. The Early History of Alpinism 15 3. Alpinism in the Early Twentieth Century 28 4. Arnold Fancks Der Heilige Berg 45 5. Leni Riefenstahls Das Blaue Licht 58 6. Arnold Fancks Die weie Hlle vom Piz Pal 70 7. Luis Trenkers Berge in Flammen 85 8. Conclusion 95 Bibliography 98 iv


List of Illustrations 1.1 Diotim as Dance to the Sea 56 1.2 The holy mountain 56 1.3 Performing at the Grand Hotel 56 1.4 Vigo enthralled by Diotimas performance 56 1.5 First encounter at the hut 56 1.6 The Friend taken with Diotima 56 1.7 The Friend holding Vigo on the rope 57 1.8 Approaching the ice cathedral 57 1.9 Ice cathedral 57 1.10 Loss at the altar 57 1.11 Diotima as parody of the tourist 57 2.1 Arrival in Santa Maria 68 2.2 Evoking Nosferatu 68 2.3 Junta contemplating a crystal 68 2.4 Junta and the old women 68 2.5 A trance-like Junta in the grotto 68 2.6 The fat crystal dealer 68 2.7 Celebrating the mining of the grotto 69 2.8 Spilled wine reminiscent of blood 69 2.9 Vigo painting at Juntas hut 69 3.1 Icicles, a significant symbol in Die Weie Hlle vom Piz Pal 81 v


3.2 Dr. Johannes Krafft about to destroy a dripping icicle 81 3.3 About to triumphantly smash icicles on the climb 81 3.4 Melting snow for tea water at the hut 81 3.5 Maria offers Krafft a cup of tea at the Diavolezza hut 81 3.6 Maria Krafft submerged in a glacial stream 81 3.7 Hans contemplating the Piz Palu 82 3.8 Hans and Krafft about to begin their climb 82 4.1 Florian Dimai before the war 93 4.2 Artur Franchini climbing w ith his friend 93 4.3 An Italian soldier boring out the tunnel under the peak 93 4.4 The Austrian troops listening to the boring operations 93 4.5 Pia begs Dimai not to return to the mountain 93 4.6 Franchini and Dimai reunite on the Collalto after the war 93 4.7 Tragedy on a reconnaissance mission 94 4.8 Comradery in the barrack s on the Collalto 94 4.9 The men prepare to leave for the war 94 4.10 The Austrians march off through th e valley towards the front 94 4.11 Dimai volunteering for the dangerous solo patrol 94 4.12 Symbols of religion add mean ing to the war effort 94 vi


THE AL PS AS SYMBOL OF NATIONAL IDENTITY: AN ANALYSIS OF THE GERMAN BERGFILM Lauren White New College of Florida, 2010 Abstract Alpinism gradually emerged as a cultur al practice in German-speaking Europe over the course of the 19th century and 20th century. The Bergfilme, or mountain films, of the 1920s and 1930s were the first representati ons of alpinism accessible to the whole of Germany, regardless of geography or income. Th ey thus constituted an essential element in the national perception of the Alps and alpinism. The films appeared around the era of an increasing politicization of the Alps, as war and the rise of reactionary politics began to appropriate the mountains as a symbol to their own ends. This thesis will examine the history of the alpinist movement, tracing it from its origins and ultimately focusing on its manifestations in the first decades of the 20th century. It will also examine a selection of mountain films to explore the ways in which German identity is represented on screen, focusing on the relationship between person and nature, the development of the Alps as a German cultural realm, and the legacy of Romanticism. Dr. Glenn Cuomo Division of Humanities vii




1. Introduction The Bergfilm, or mountain film, was a genre that emerged in Germany around the end of World War I. Pioneered by director Dr. Arnold Fanck, these feature films were dramas set in the Alps and typically co mbined romantic intrigue, tragedy, and impressively risky mountaineering feats. Their cinematographic hallmarks were striking images of the mountain landscape: panoramas of rolling clouds, sw eeping snow blowing off lonely ridges, glacial crevasses, and imposing rock faces. Fanck had a number of protgs who produced their own mountain film s in later years, in cluding most notably Leni Riefenstahl and Luis Trenker, whose work will be examined in this thesis, as well as a number of cameramen and photographers, such as Hans Ertl and Hans Schneeberger. The films were commercially successful in their era, and their heyday lasted from 1924 with Fancks release of Der Berg des Schicksals through the late 1930s with Trenkers work and the films of a gr owing number of new directors (Rapp 246). After 1945, a small number of second generation mountain films were made, but they enjoyed less success than their predecessors, and eventually the genre faded away (Rapp 251-3). As a cinematographic phenomenon, the mountain film s remained primarily located in the inter-war period in Germany. Alpinism, a term used to encompass th e history of Alpine mountaineering and recreation, constitutes a small but significant part of German history. Transforming from a rather eccentric elite leisure activity in the late 18th century, alpinism eventually became an important cultural pastime for many German s and Austrians. The movement primarily drew followers from an educated urban demographic, but beginning with Germanys 1


economic growth in the late 19th century and the development of tourist infrastructure in Alpine regions, vacations and weekend expeditions to the mountains became commonplace for an increasingly broad segment of the population. As evidenced by the writings of contemporary alpini sts, the mountains came to serve as a refuge from the pressures and banality of work and life in the city (see Gnther a nd Holt for discussions and examples of this trend). The mountain f ilms were the first widespread representations of alpinism. Reaching a far broader audien ce than the publications of the GermanAustrian Alpine Association, the films played a major role in shaping public perception of alpinism. The majority of the German population experienced the Alps and the attractions of alpinism only through the cinema, itself an escapi st retreat from real life. While the films constituted a sensationalized interpretation of alpinism, they represented a confluence of elements of the history of al pinism and reflected the setting in which they emerged. The mountain films have ofte n been accused of representing an artistic precursor to fascism, evidence that German audi ences sought escapist release from the responsibilities of individual au tonomy, as well as societal pr essures. Critics point to the thematic affinities between the films and the National Socialist cultural mythos, including preoccupations with the subjugation of the i ndividual will to an authority figure, the cult of death, and purity. Siegfried Kracauer, a Ge rman expatriate and professional cultural critic, first articulated this argument, which has been variously reaffirmed and repudiated by subsequent writers on the genre. The term fascist aesthetic, prominently defined by Susan Sontag, figures in many of the conde mnations of the genre. Countering this argument are writers such as Eric Rentsc hler and Linda Schulte-Sasse, who, while 2


recognizing the problematically reactionary elements of the films, introduce criteria other than straightforward thematic commonalities as the means for evaluation. The mountain films incorporate a diverse set of cultural cu rrents: they draw on the Romantic legacy (both artistic and within alpinism), display an active (if not explicit) engagement with the definition of German identity, and reflect a complex relationship to modernity. While there are thematic affinities between the mount ain films and the Nati onal Socialists, these similarities are reflective of the fact that the phenomena were born in the same cultural milieu, not that one necessarily led to the other. This thesis will examine the historical context of the mountain films, locating them within the trajectory of German alpinism, and will explore the problematic relationship between the genre and its political implications. I will specifically focus on the legacy of Romanticism visible in the film s and argue that this connection represents a close affiliation with the al pinist movement of the 19th century and as well as an engagement with the contemporary issues of alpinism. The alpinist movement of the early 20th century was nationalistically oriented, with militaristic and racist overtones gaining strength by the 1920s, and the mountai n films internalized this preoccupation with Germanic identity. Fundamentally, the ge nre reflects a reactionary anti-modernism, but to identify this wholly with German fascism is teleological and only possible in hindsight. Rather, the mountain films reflect a complex relationship to the dynamics of interwar Germany with deep-rooted connections to the Romantic-influenced history of the alpinist movement. My thesis will examine f our major mountain films, representing the genres three most significant directors and a se lection of key themes: Arnold Fancks Der 3


Heilige Berg and Die Weie Hlle vom Piz Pal ; Leni Riefenstahls Das Blaue Licht; and Luis Trenkers Berge in Flammen These films have in common their portrayals of the intimate interconnection of man and nature and explorations of the tragic -heroic potential of individuals. Most of my discussion will focus on these themes, but I will also address the construction of Germanic identity, the ci vilization/nature dichotomy, and issues of gender. While technology and allusions to World War I situate the films temporally in a modern context, the films themes evoke an earlier time. There is no evidence of urbanization, industrializati on, internal migrations, or political upheaval: the films represent a world related to, but ultimately outside the r eality of Weimar-era Germany. The history of alpinism can be described as a trajectory from Enlightenment scientific rationalism to Romanticism to a complex mixture of Romantic-influenced escapism and athletic enthusiasm. The mount ain films incorporate elements of both Romanticism and athleticism, but primarily represent an escapist rejection of urban modernity. As such, the films can be iden tified equally well with the late 19th century alpinist movement as with the raciallya nd politically-charged alpinism of the 1920s and 30s. I will also discuss the transformations of the alpinist movement, elaborating on the evolution of its ideology and constituency, in order to el ucidate the context of the mountain films. The films examined in this thesis were first released between 1926 and 1932, in the years surrounding two major chaotic economic crises in Germany. Initially appearing after the resolution of the hyperinflation crisis, the films by their mere presence in cinemas initially represented a return to so cial normality: the resurgence of mass leisure 4


activities. Cinema was a sign of both norma lization and relative prosperity. However, with the advent of the world financial crisis in November 1929, the relative stability of the Weimar Republic began to disintegrate. Cinema remained popular, but assumed more characteristics of an escapist retreat from an unpleasant reality. At the same time, the organi zational life of the German alpinist community was becoming an increasingly politicized realm. The Alps assumed symbolic nationalistic overtones. Imbued with connotations of Germanic heritage, the Alps became a raciallycharged zone, with repeated efforts to exclude Jews and non-Aryans from organizational membership and use of fac ilities. Additionally, th roughout the interwar years, a number of active right-wing minor po litical figures rose through the ranks of the German-Austrian Alpine Association, assumi ng positions of responsibility or merely bringing their ideologies into the organization. Although the Alps had recently become more accessible for a wider segment of th e population, due to improved transportation and facilities, as well as a gr owing industrial economy which fed the growth of a German middle class, and had lost the elitist overtone s of the 19th century, they had not become a fully egalitarian or democratic realm. M ountaineers remained a self-selecting elite, despite the fact that that elite grew dramatically in the early 20th century. A significant ideological shift among alpinists occurred slowly over the course of the 19th century. The initial rati onale of scientific research clung to mountain expeditions well into the 19th century as justification for a pursuit distinctly di fficult to explain to non-participants. In the ideologi cal wake of Rousseau and th e Romantic authors, nature came to be perceived as a realm of se lf-discovery and spiritual nourishment. Mountaineering as a sport and leisure activ ity in its own right gradually gained 5


acceptance as these ideas were integrated into the fabric of alpinism. With the advent of modern industrial cities, the mountains grew in symbolic importance as a refuge from the alienation and oppressiveness of urban life. Mountaineering also developed as an athletic pursuit largely divorced from all connotations of personal and spiritual growth, with professional mountain climbers fi rst appearing in the early 20th century. The mountains were playground as well as refuge for a pre dominantly urban contingent of adventurers and climbers. Siegfried Kracauers From Caligari to Hitler: a Psychological History of the German Film has been the subject of considerable criticism for its clear-cut teleological analysis of German film as a precursor to the countrys embrace of fascism. Kracauer himself was a German expatriate writing in exile; before the National Socialist ascension to power, he had worked as a prominent cultural critic in Germ any. For Kracauer, early German cinema consistently expressed the nations escapist, regressive longings for stability and order imposed from above. The mountain films glorified irrationalism and the sacrifice of individual w ill. The mountains represented an unattainable object of desire in their purity and dangerousness; they also represented ultimate authority. Real mountaineers were snobbish elitis ts with little moral integrit y to support their feelings of superiority: Their attitude amounted to a kind of heroic idealism which, through blindness to more substantial ideals, expended itself in tourist exploits (Kracauer 111). The mountain climbers of early 20th century Germany were devotees performing the rites of a cult, ripe in their overwhe lming enthusiasm and weak convictions for seduction by a convincing author ity. This immaturity translat ed over to the plots of the 6


mountain films, epitomized in adolescent main characters and the overwhelmingly symbolic gesture in Der Heilige Berg of the young protagonist Vigo laying his head in the dancer Diotimas lap. Immaturity and mountain enthusiasm were one, wrote Kracauer in his analysis of the scene (Kr acauer 112). Both alpinism and the mountain films were symptoms of the same refusal to confront the problems of contemporary realities; escaping into nature demonstrated hostility to urban modernity, and vicariously escaping into nature via the cinema was t hus doubly despicable. Kracauer connects the sentimentality of the mountain films with th e reality of mountain climbing and identifies both phenomena as symptoms of the same social malaise. The escapism implicit in the mountain films represents a societal predilection to authoritarianism, according to Kracauer. The links between the films and Nazi ideology included antirational glorification of natu re, reactionary disappr oval of a degenerate modern world, and the affirmation of the s upposedly superior nature of the natureidentified mountain climbe r. The self-sacrifice in Der Heilige Berg constituted a paradigmatic image of heroism for the Nazis (Kracauer 112). Elitist hierarchies can be found in Das Blaue Licht which values nature over civilization. Das Blaue Licht laments the destruction of the beautiful for the sake of the material: What remains is nostalgia for her realm and sadness over a disenchanted world in which the miraculous becomes merchandise (Kracauer 259). Berge in Flammen resanctifies war and the heroic potential of the soldier (Kracauer 2601). Kracauer concludes that the mountain films were evidence of psychological weakne sses resolved en masse with the ascension of the Nazis to power; totalitarian author ity sought to restrict indivi dual autonomy while creating a myth of Germanic greatness that would im bue cultural life with a new significance. 7


Fancks films and those of his protgs were forerunners to the Na tionalist Socialist antimodern cult of nature and death. Susan Sontag takes up Kr acauers loose ends in her 1974 essay Fascinating Fascism to weave them into her theory of fascis t aesthetics, citing Kracauers book as if it were a definitive authorit ative source on early German cinema and wholeheartedly subscribing to his teleology. Her essay speci fically treats Leni Riefenstahls work, focusing on the films made under the Nazis. S ontag delves deeper than Kracauer into themes of subjugation of the individual to authority and representa tions of purity. With more compelling supportive evidence for her theory, Sontags analysis of the mountain films is, in some ways, more convincing than Kracauers. However, Sontag shares Kracauers teleological interpretation, drawing a straight line from the mountain films to National Socialist propaganda. Her unique cont ribution to the dialogue on the mountain films is the concept of the fascist aesthetic, which she defines as follows: [Fascist aesthetics] flow from (and jus tify) a preoccupation with situations of control, submissive behavior, extr avagant effort, and the endurance of pain; they endorse two seemingly oppos ite states, egomania and servitude. Fascist art glorifies su rrender, it exalts mindlessn ess, it glamorizes death. (Sontag 91) Fascist aesthetics are also characterized by the choreographed org iastic transactions between authority and the masses (Sontag 91). This model for this definition is Triumph des Willens; it is applied to Riefenstahls other work as an afterthought. However, elements of Sontags definitions can be a pplied to the mountain films, specifically the fascination with pain, surrender, and death. Wh ile Sontag effectively identifies elements 8


of the films that deserve to be interpreted w ith an eye to National Socialism, she neglects to analyze the mountain films in their original cultural cont ext, effectively ignoring the complex set of influences which produced the genre. Although he r interpretation has some utility in thinking about the m ountain films, it is incomplete. Sontag views Fancks films as a less-developed kind of fascist art, scoutishly treating a few key themes that would reappear in a mature form in Leni Riefenstahls work. The mountain films evolved from proto-fa scist into wholly fascist pieces of art, and Riefenstahls Das Blaue Licht epitomized the intersection of politics and nature under the guise of Sontags fascist aesthetic. Mountain climbing in Fancks films was a visually irresistible metaphor for unlimited aspiration toward the high mystic goal, both beautiful and terrifying, which was later to become concrete in Fhrer-worship (Sontag 76). Human inadequacy is measured against the mountain; nature on the mountain top is elevated to the level of God and later suppl anted by the Fhrer. Th e religiously loaded word choice here is impossible to miss: mystic, both beautiful and terrifying, Fhrer-worship. Sontag paints a picture of a post-religion world, in which paganism and politics can become absolute moral aut hority, assuming God-like qualities of terror and beauty. In this regard, Sontag and Kr acauer agree that mountain climbing functions as a religion or cult for its practitioners, and that this newfound dedication to sport and nature betrays a certain moral weakness. Accord ing to Sontag, the goal is always the peak (in itself an oversimplification of the films plots, and in some cases fully erroneous). On a vertical axis, up equals good and desirabl e and down equals prosaic, petty, and bad. According to Sontag, these themes reach a new level of development in Das Blaue Licht. 9


Riefenstahls self-directe d mountain film receives speci al attention because of what came after it. Unavoidably labeled as a Na zi filmmaker, Riefenstahl colors all her previous and subsequent work by association. Sontag looks for fle dgling manifestations of images and themes later to be found in Triumph des Willens and Olympia, and accordingly draws a line from Fancks work on through Riefenstahls Party films. Those themes include the mystic, quasi-religious connotations of the mountain visible in Das Blaue Licht : As usual, the mountain is represented as both supremely beautiful and dangerous, that majestic force which invites the ultimate affirmation of and escape from the self into the brotherhood of courage a nd into death (Sontag 77). The response to ultimate authority, symbolized by the mountain, is irrationality and disregard for life. The mountain seductively beckons, and the young me n of the village respond by losing their lives in the attempt to probe the mountains secrets: ordinary mort als succumbing to an unfathomable power. Nature and civilization are portrayed as mu tually antagonistic, represented by the death of the nature-identif ied character at the end of the film: What eventually causes the girls death is not th e impossibility of the goal symbolized by the mountain but the materialist, prosaic spirit of envious villagers (Sontag 77). Das Blaue Licht is a lament for the mean materialism of the civilized world and the loss of the pure and mystical forces of nature. To read any work of art, films included, as a pure refl ection of political ideology or opinion is to rob it of layers of meaning; political interp retations of art are often gross oversimplifications. Both politics and art reflect contemporary c oncerns, but politics responds directly to those concerns via governmental processes or direct action, whereas 10


art probes and asks questions to elucidate the nature of the issue at hand. While a political agenda sometimes underlies art, it is unfair to assume that this is ne cessarily the case. In the case of the mountain films, it is important to consider the fact that alpinism as a phenomenon predates the rise of German fascism by over a century. Additionally, the mountain films were the product of a small team; they were met with a substantial amount of criticism from the alpinist community, who resented their perceived sensationalism and inaccuracy as willful misedu cation of the public. It is thus difficult to directly identify the genre with the politically-charged contemporary alpinist movement. While the films reflect the era of their ma king, they ultimately represent the creative vision of individuals with wildly diverse re lationships to the conservative reactionary politics of their time. This thesis will a ttempt to avoid the political determinism of Kracauer and Sontags analyses in order to construct a more complete picture of the mountain film genre within its own cultural context, that is, Weimar Germany. The mountain films are artistically anachronistic. They borrow heavily from the Romantics of the 19th century in both visual and thema tic content. The films explore what it means to live as a human in concert with the mountains, and the re presentations of the human-nature connection run the ga mut from the overtly mystical (Das Blaue Licht) to a deeply ingrained sense of tradition and Heimatliebe ( Berge in Flammen ). The protagonists tend to be outsiders from civili zation, in some noticeable way alienated from life in the valley or village, seeking solace in nature. Technology plays a complementary role in Fancks films, but is represente d as a destructive force in Trenkers and Riefenstahls. The genre as a whole is char acterized by its blending of the contemporary and the romantic; a nostalgia for a vaguely-defined world of the past permeates the filmic 11


landscape. Eric Rentschler describes the films as an alliance between technology and "pre-modern yearning," representations of contemporary alpinism infused with nostalgia for something lost ("Mountains and Modernit y" 160). The characters are clothed in the garb of 20th century mountaineering, but they are playing out interpretations of old themes. The films' protagonists sh are common traits identif iable with models of Romantic heroism. The protagonists in these films are typically outsiders, somehow alienated from the other characters (Florian Dimai of Berge in Flammen is here the exception, but his charact er is discussed at length in my chapter on the film). They wander the mountains, and nature comes to reflect their inner struggles and strengths. Junta' s mysterious abilities and power are represented by the blue light, the crys tal grotto high up on the mountain. The Friend of Der Heilige Berg seeks self-understanding in the peaks; the high mountains are his private domain. Johannes Krafft of Die Weie Hlle vom Piz Pal soothes his inner guilt and torment caused by his wife's accidental death by repeatedly attempting to conquer the mountain where her body remains missing. These characters are misfits in civilizati on, but they find refuge and strength in nature. These connections are further de veloped through editing techniques and other visual cues, which reinforce psychic and spiritual affinity between hero and mountain. The mountain films compri se an element of the contemporary debate on modernity and its concomitant issues of ur banization and alienati on. The history of the 12


alpinist movement was inextricably connected to the evolution of these concepts; the popularity of alpine recreation naturally wa xed as these ideas gained currency. The largest wave of popularizati on in mountain climbing as a leisure activity followed Germany's development as a major industrial power and internal popu lation migrations to urban areas. It is unsurprising that the comparatively undeveloped Alps attracted increased attention as growing numbers of pe ople crowded into the cities. For those with disposable income, the real mountains were accessible. For those who did not have the money, the cinema could substitute. Both activ ities could serve the same escapist end. The films spoke to two impo rtant concerns: the cultura l transformation effected by urbanization, and the place of the individual in modern society. The landscape, from peaks to villages, was the meeting ground for the traditional and the modern, and the tensions between these poles were played out in the films. The films protagonists, usually sojourners in the landscap e of the high peaks, were like the audiences in that they too were from elsewhere, seeking something in nature. These protagonists typically found validation of their extr eme individualism in their heroic feats or victimhood. The cinema was a hotbed of proto-Nazism only inasmuch as any other major public realm in Weimar Germany would have be en. The mountain films, like the alpinist movement, interpreted the Alps as a symbol of Germanic identity; it is no coincidence that the dialogue between the modern and romanticized traditional was set in a realm deeply identified with German heritage. As the Alps became a politicized realm for the mountaineering community in th e years after World War I, their representation in the cinema brought them into the broader soci al dialogue on nationa l identity and the changing life of the nation. The films popularit y testifies to their re sonance with a large 13


14 segment of the population. The mountain film s are nostalgic and sometimes plainly antimodern, but they also reflect their roots in the alpinist movement, and an active engagement in the dialogue on Germanys cultural transformation.


2. The Early History of Alpinism Alpinism originated in the cities. London was home to many of the earliest Alpinists, as were the Swiss cities of Gene va, Basel, and Bern. These early mountaineers were overwhelmingly male and upper-class, drawing from the aristocratic and upper bourgeoisie (Grobrgertum ) sectors of society. Alpinism, the practice of climbing and hiking the Alpine mountains, be gan as a trickle which grew steadily in strength beginning in the 18th century, becoming an ever-widening st ream encompassing participants from an broad social base. However, al pinism retained its essentially brgerlich character up through the Second World War. Diverse motivat ions including scientific research and military strategizing initially brought people into the Alps, but alpinists were ultimately characterized by their glorifica tion of alpine nature, pursuit of physical challenge for its personally enriching values, and conviction that the alpine experience somehow constituted an elevation above the mess of daily life in spiritual, educative, and communal terms. Particularly problematic in the early decades of alpinism was the movements relationship to the Alps themselves. Whereas romanticized images of unsullied nature and noble, simple natives current in literature and travel re ports had initially lured many alpinists into the mountains, the reality of the already inhabited but largely uncharted Swiss Alps (as this was the primary destinati on of the earliest alpi nists) often challenged the tourists preconceptions and comfort levels Martin Scharfe char acterizes the resulting meeting of worlds as a clash of era as well as worldview, resulting in a process of cultural appropriation effected by the al pinists (Scharfe 77-8). The alpinists certainly succeeded in 15


som e avenues in molding the Alps to m eet their own needs, both materially and ideologically. As the Alps came to serve as the playground of wealthy urbanites, the landscape increasingly reflected a compensati on for the weaknesses and faults of the modern brgerlich lifestyle. This chapter will establish alpinism as an essentially brgerlich movement. It will identify significant factors and persons in the genesis of alpinism and will discuss early representations of the Alps typically credited with cont ributing to the popularity of alpinism. I will examine the practices and values of the 18th and 19th century alpinists and explore how they interacted with the exis ting native culture and norms. Finally, I will discuss the creation of various alpine organizations, partic ularly the German-Austrian Alpine Association, in the late 19th century and examine information about its membership and activities in order to iden tify the organization as an outgrowth of modernizing brgerlich German culture. The mountain heights were traditionally only braved by hunters, smugglers, and perhaps the occasional pilgrim or shepherd after a stray goat. The first people to deliberately and methodically c hoose to repeatedly brave the heights (and even this is relative: the journey to the peak only b ecame a priority around the end of the 18th century) were scientists. Cartographers, botanists, meteor ologists, and geologists all found subjects of interest in the Alps. The earliest scientif ic manuscripts concerning the Alps appeared in the 16th century. Much of the early research was centered around the university in Basel (Grupp 30-1). Scie ntific research was a process of Erschlieung which represented the (slowly) increasing accessibility for pe rsons outside Switzerland of 16


the previously overwhelm ingly unknown regi on. Early scientists largely confined themselves to relatively low elevations in their expeditions and displayed little interest in the experience of mountain climbing. While alpinisms origins are thoroughly intertwined with this early scientific re search, the movement only came into its own character upon the development of a devoti on to mountain climbing for its own sake. Until well into the 19th century, the augmentation of scie ntific knowledge about the Alps was maintained as a primary stated goal of al pinists and alpine orga nizations, as I will discuss in more detail later. However, so me of the earliest contributors to the popularization of alpinism bridged the ga p between science and mountaineering. Konrad Gesner, born 1516 in Zurich, wa s a zoologist, botanist, and doctor whose introduction to alpine nature came via his research. Gesners writi ngs anticipate by over two centuries the enthusiasm for nature and pleasure in hiking expressed by members of the alpinism movement proper; he is the fi rst example of pursuing the physical challenge of mountain climbing (in the sense of Wandern rather than Klettern ) for its own sake. In a 1541 letter to his friend Jakob V ogel, Gesner resolves to c limb several or at least one mountain annually while the plants are flowerin g, partially to acquaint myself with them, partially to exercise the body in an honest manner and to delight the spirit (qtd. in Grupp 33). Centuries before the cultural invention of sport as a unique activity, Gesners resolution seems somewhat anachronistic. Gesner also anticipates the endowment of the nature experi ence with spiritual value as well as the problematic social elitism which characterized 19th and early 20th century alpinism. He puts forth scathing char acterizations of the people in the valleys, designating those not curious enough to explore the mountains dull spirits. Gesner 17


levels the accusation: T hey want to wallo w in mud, they want to crawl, blinded by material gain and slavish Streberei (qtd. in Grupp 34). Gesner also resembles his later alpinist cohorts in his quasi religious glorifi cation of alpine nature and accordant pride in his privileged, enlightened st atus in it. Referring to the mountains as this earthly paradise, he criticizes those who avoided them because they do not see the great play of the universe (qtd. in Grupp 34). Entertaining the possibility of the existence of an earthly paradise constitutes blasphemy; Gesner implies that he has privileged knowledge of the universe as a result of his daring explorations. Later, rationalistic alpinists were to pay no heed to the local norms and taboos which kept people off the mountain tops both in Europe and, in the 20th century, in the mountains of the Himalayas and Caucasus. Increasing secularizatio n and valuation of scientific rationalism over religious or supe rstitious limitations on moveme nt and exploration characterized later alpinists perspectives a nd endeavors. Again, Gesner anticipates these characteristics of alpinism. In many regards, Gesner constitute s a forefather of the alpinist movement in that the tone of his writings, his motivations, and his values foreshadow the character of the later movement. Several prominent works of literature contributed to the rising awareness and popularity of the Alps in the 18th century. The poem Die Alpe n by the Berner botanist and physician Albrecht von Haller and two novels by J ean-Jacques Rousseau, the epistolary Julie or the New Heloise and Emile or, on Education all enjoyed considerable popularity, reaching audiences across Europe. Julie or the New Heloise describes the crisis-ridden courtship of two young lovers li ving in a small Alpine town. Appearing in 1761, the novel underwent as many as seventy editions before 1800. Emile or, on 18


Education describes the educative transform ation of the title charac ter from childhood through adulthood. Emile is the recipient of an entirely natural e ducation, in nature, away from the corrupting infl uence of the city and his pa rents supervision, under the guidance of a special tutor. With Emile, Rousseau imagin es the purifying educative power of nature in the cultivation of an ideal citizen. The novel also enjoyed considerable popularity throughout France. Hallers poem Die Alpen first appeared in 1732 and underwent more than thirty printings during Hallers lifetime alone. It wa s translated into French, English, Italian, and Latin, indicating the breadth of its dist ribution (Grupp 37). Die Alpen portrays a highly idealized pastoral lands cape peopled with innocent an d noble inhabitants almost a Naturkind motif. Haller describes the courts hip and marriage of a young couple: Er liebet sie, sie ihn, dies macht den Heirat-Schlu. Die Eh wird oft durch nichts als beider Treu befestigt, Fr Schwre dient ein Ja, das Siegel ist ein Ku. Die holde Nachtigall grt sie von nahen Zweigen, Die Wollust deckt ihr Bett auf sanft geschwollnes Moos, Zum Vorhang dient ein Baum, die Einsamkeit zum Zeugen, Die Liebe fhrt die Braut in ihres Hirten Scho. O dreimal seligs Paar! Euch mu ein Frst beneiden, Dann Liebe balsamt Gras und Ekel herrscht auf Seiden. (Haller) Haller portrays the society in which the love rs live as beyond the usual realm of rules and contracts in that marriages are often made fast by nothing but both parties faithfulness. This peaceable arrangement is reminiscent of the Garden of Eden ; the lovers are bound together by nothing but their in tegrity and pure love for one another. The likenesses to Eden become clearer in the following lines, as Haller describes the marital bed made of moss, sheltered from the gaze of others by only loneliness and a si ngle tree. The lovers exist in a paradisiacal, pastor al state of nature. The innocence of this scene forms a 19


counterpoint to the decadence of society and wealth when Haller invokes the im age of a prince. He associates love with grass and di sgust with silk; by c ontending that a prince would certainly envy the lovers their situ ation, the valuation of nature over the refinements of society is clear. Hallers poe m created an image of the Alps which found substantial currency among contemporary Europ eans; in the absence of other sources of information about the region, The Alps forcefully shaped popular perceptions. Unsurprisingly, the idylli c picture painted by these popular works of literature encouraged interest in and travel to the Alps. The new currents of interest in the Alps which arose during the era of Haller and Rousseau came from both outside rs and locals. The aristocratic tradition of the cavaliers tour, coming of age educational journeys pr imarily undertaken by Englishmen traveling to the Continent, began to include the Swi ss Alps as a destination in their own right. Instead of simply hurrying through the treach erous mountainous region en route to Italy, travelers began to include Switzerland in th eir itineraries. Among the Swiss, the Geneva aristocrat Horace Benedict de Saussure broke away from the dominant scientificmotivated patterns of alpine exploration and in 1760 set out a reward for the first person to find a route to the summit of the Mont Blanc. Saussures incentive and the subsequent conquering of the Mont Blanc repres ented the beginning of the era of Gipfelstrmerei the process of summiting all the major alpine peaks, which came to be the dominant narrative of 19th century alpinism. Saussure reached the peak of the Mont Blanc in 1787, one year after his trail-blazer, Jacques Balm at. Saussures accomplishment also marked a confrontation with the fearful uncertainty surrounding the nature of human experience 20


da oben; Saussures expedition and their alpinist successors grappled w ith superstitions about both malevolent and benevolent spirits in the desolate high realms and doubts about the mechanics of physical survival on the peak as they embarked on their journeys. Unsurprisingly, early travelers to the Sw iss Alps did not meet the kind of natives described by Haller. Tourists accounts portray ed a drastically differe nt kind of person: The natives were thus portrayed mostly as dull, uneducated and spiritually limited, as dirty, inhospitable and there by sly and greedy, sometimes as fanatically religious or superstitious (Grupp 220). Ironically, the Ge rman-Austrian Alpine Association later interpreted its role in alpine comm unities as a developmental helper ( Entwicklungshelfer ), seeing itself as a catalyst in the modernization of the underdeveloped towns and thereby manifesting a quasi colonialist at titude towards the local inhabitants (Gnther 65). For the natives alpinist tourism represented a welcome source of income which created jobs and encouraged the development of infrastructural amenities such as railroads. The relationship wa s mutually beneficial but distinctly tense. Interactions between alpinists and locals often required a blurring of standard social boundaries and overall represented a clash in worldview between the urbane tourists and the traditional villagers. Martin Scharfe characterizes the trav elers as Enlightenment-influenced, looking to demystify the Alps and bring them within the sphere of common knowledge via their explorations and subsequent recordings of their findings. The desire to augment the sphere of public knowledge along with the at tempt to literally reach ever-increasing heights constituted what Scharfe deems an Aufwrtsstreberei a grasping towards new heights and levels of achievement (Scharfe 43) The travelers desire to explore and thus 21


dem ystify regions traditionally taboo or largely untraveled among the natives was typically met with misunderstanding. Supers titions surrounding certain areas glaciers, peaks, heights above tree line manifest themselves in cautionary tales and taboos communicated from natives to travelers, lead ing many alpinists to characterize them as superstitious ( aberglubisch ). Common stories found in folkloric research include portrayals of glaciers as the realm of the armen Seelen the poor souls in a purgatorial state; apparitions of wild wo men, often a hunt mistress, who could help or harm humans as she pleased; and rumors that skilled mountain climbers or hunters obtained their powers through pacts with the devil (Scharfe 56, 79-83). The natives themselves were seldom accustomed to climbing beyond their high pastures for any purpose. The tourists motivations appeared strange and unsympathe tic, and many travelers complained of their guides reluctance to undertak e the same level of risk as they themselves sought out. Despite their strangeness in the eyes of the natives, tourists repres ented a welcome source of income in the visited communities and infr astructure, both material and human, arose accordingly to meet their needs. Accommodation, transportation, and hu man support in the form of guides developed in response to the demands of a grow ing tourist flow. In the towns, hotels were established to serve the wealthy travelers; hot els were often kept in the same family for generations. Hoteliers also constituted an important link between travelers and guides. Veritable dynasties of cooperation arose in some towns (Grupp 187). Improved transportation in the form of railways contri buted to the strength of the Swiss tourist industry. Railroad construction began in the 1850s with considerable attention and debate from the Swiss people. Prior to 1869, respons ibility for the rail system lay almost 22


exclusively with private indus try. W ith the construction of the first alpine railway, the Gotthard line, the cantons became more ac tive in planning and construction. In 1874, control over the railways was formally handed over to the federal government (Bonjour 293-6, 323). By the 20th century, Switzerland had develope d one of the densest and most trafficked rail systems in the world (Kri ppendorf 281). Guides were often farmers or hunters for whom tourism represented onl y a supplementary source of income. Recommendations were of great significance to early travelers, as many guides were distinctly unreliable or unknowledgeable. As alpine tourism became a more entrenched institution and the expectations for guides sk ill level rose, apprenticeships to experienced guides became the conventional entryway into the profession. Beginning in the late 19th century, the Alpine Association also exercised official oversight over the qualifications of professional guides (Grupp 190). Ironically, the use of professional guides on tours fell largely out of practice between 1880 and 1900 as a result of improved maps and route information as well as the publica tions of prominent advocates of Alleingehen such as Eugen Guido Lammer and Paul Preu. The touris t infrastructure which arose to serve the needs of the Alpinists brought about major tr ansformations in the economic life of the affected communities, particularly in th e Swiss Alps, which still today constitute determining characteristics of these regions. While the alpinists of the 18th century represented an often aristocratic and always moneyed and educated social el ite, the alpinism of the 19th century expanded to include a broader socioeconomic spectrum in terms of its adherents, while still retaining a distinctly bildungsbrgerlich character. However, the vari ety of alpine organizations 23


allowed for a range of possibility in self -definition am ong alpinists. Within Germanspeaking Europe, the most prominent Alpine organizations were founded in the 1860s: the Austrian Alpine Association in 1862 and the German Alpine Association in 1869. The two were merged to form the German and Austrian Alpine Association in 1873.1 This institution represented the dominant tre nds within alpinism. The organization was founded with deliberately universalistic membership regulations; no special mountaineering accomplishments were required for membership, nor were standards applied to the type or intensity of the tours undertaken by members: the German Alpine Association demands no particular ach ievements, only a keen interest in the Alpine World; it is not an a ssociation of mountain climbers (qtd. in Keller Eternal Mountains 3). The club was thus conceived of in deliberate opposition to the exclusive nature of the earliest British alpine clubs, wh ich functioned as elite social and athletic clubs with extensive membersh ip restrictions. Elite groups of mountaineers within the German-speaking realm organized themselves into small associations such as the Austrian Alpine Club and the Academic Al pine Association of Munich. Despite the official openness of the German-Austrian Alpi ne Association, an explicitly working-class alpine organization, the Friends of Nature was founded in Vienna in 1895. As the organizers of the Friends of Nature had accurately perceived, the German-Austrian Alpine Association had quick ly developed a distinctly brgerlich character manifest in the self-selection of its members. The membership of the German-Austria n Alpine Association in the late 19th century indicated the upper-class touristic nature of alpinism. In 1874, only 13 of 43 sections were actually located within the alpine region. The majority of members did not 1 The Swiss Alpine Club was founded in 1863 24


live in the A lps, and fully 28% of the memb ership was located in either Munich or Vienna. While proximity to the Alps was a more significant determining factor than urbanity in the local popularity of the German-Austrian Alpine Association, virtually all major cities and university towns in Germany had a chapter by the turn of the century (Gnther 38-40). Many section lead ers during this era, particul arly in the sections which fell outside of the alpine region, were public o fficials, highly educated professionals such as lawyers or doctor, or university or gymnasium professors. Merchants and entrepreneurs were also wellrepresented (Eternal Mountains 23). Within the Alps, this pattern was less consistent and membership typically represented a relatively high proportion of farmers and tradesmen (Gnther 43-5). Membership thus represented a social milieu with the economic means a nd available leisure time to afford the sometimes-costly equipment necessary for t ours and the costs of travel. Indeed, the annual club dues in 1909 were as high as twelve Marks for some sections a sum unaffordable for most workers (Eternal Mountains 23). The bildungsbrgerlich character of the membership indicated that, though officia lly a universalistic organization, the German-Austrian Alpine A ssociation attracted an upper-class following. For many members of the Alpine Asso ciation, the mountains represented an escape from the mundane or oppressive routines of professional urban life. Excursions to the mountains represented an opportunity to exercise ones indi vidual autonomy in contrast to the need to follow orders from ones work superiors and to escape from the oppressive city atmosphere for pure nature ( Eternal Mountains 3640). The Alps came to stand as a Wahlheimat for many alpinists, especially Germans living in further-flung regions. These members were fiercely protective of their chosen home, going so far as to 25


defend it f rom the perceived commercial to urist designs of the Austrians and South Germans (Gnther 95). The desire to keep the Alps pure from the taint of civilization manifests itself in the fin-de-sicle Erschlieungsdebatte : members of the Alpine Association debated via orga nization publications whether the mountains were becoming too heavily trafficked and whether the Association should continue its infrastructure development. Topics such as the installa tion of electricity in the huts came under consideration (Gnther 94). The debate repres ented an attempt to isolate the Alps from the corrupting influence of the city: alpinist s, especially those fo r whom the mountains were only playground and not home, resisted modernization and increases in tourist traffic. In the eyes of many city-dwelling alpinists, the mountains were to remain a pristine place of refuge for urban escapees. This chapter has provided a brief overvie w of the origins a nd character of the alpinist movement up through the founding of the German-Austrian Alpine Association in the late 19th century. It has described the role of Haller and Rousseau in popularizing the Alps and identified other significant actors in early alpinism. It has described some of the ways in which rationalistic Enlightenment thought influen ced alpinists practices and values. Finally, it explored the infrastructu ral developments and the forms of selforganization which fostered the growth and id entity-building of th e alpinist movement. The term alpinism refers to a specific hist orical movement which developed gradually and from many different angles but applies to a definite social milieu characterized by a perspective that was simultaneously scien tific and rationalistic, and nature-based spiritual. The next chapter will describe the development of alpinism in the early 20th 26


27 century and illustrate its process of self-def inition in response to various contemporary issues and debates.


3. Alpinism in the Early Twentieth Century From 1900 through the early years of the Nazi regime, Alpinism struggled to reaffirm its self-conception as a serious, c ontemplative and persona lly educative practice in the face of its growing popularity and pr ominence in the public eye. Within the German-Austrian Alpine Association, debate s raged over the images of mountaineering current in contemporary society and expressed the concern that Al pinism was becoming cheapened and sensationalized through its newfound prominence. The Association grew increasingly chauvinistic during these years as it developed a heightened sense of itself as a nationalistic entity. The vlkisch tendencies of the Association were invigorated by the experience of World War I and further unfolded in the 1920s in the debates over Jewish membership. In the tumultuous social dynamic of the early 20th century, the Alpine Association sought to preserve its elite cultural status by cl early distinguishing itself from the Pbel the unruly masses. The Alpinists burgeoning na tionalism, resistance to th e corrupting influence of increased public attention, and newfound r acial awareness mark ed a shift in the movements self-conception. Departing from its relatively aloof cultural situation in the 19th century, Alpinism came to reflect many of the ideological transformations of the contemporary middle and upper classes and enga ge in contemporary cultural dialogues. Retaining their essentially brgerlich character, members of the Alpine Association expressed considerable resistance to th e popularization of Alpinism and sought to maintain a facade of purity; above the se nsationalism and chaos of mass culture, 28


Alpinism still represented a reserve of noble values and spiritual awareness playing out against the backdrop of the mountains. This chapter will examine the broadening membership of the German-Austrian Alpine Association at the beginning of the 20th century and the ways in which the Alpinists manifest their desire to retain the elite charac ter of their organization and movement. It will then summarize the debates over Alpinism as public spectacle in the sportification of activities such as mountain climbing a nd skiing and in the popularity of the Bergfilme. I will then examine the ways in which nationalism and vlkisch tendencies infiltrated the rhetoric of the Alpine Association. This will include an examination of the ways in which Alpinism related to World War I, as well as an analysis of the racist discourses in the 1920s and the relationship of the movement to the Nazi party. Membership in the German-Austrian Alpine Association rose sharply in the first two decades of the 20th century. German sections had th e numerical advantage and grew more rapidly than their Austrian counterpa rts (Gnther 43). However, the newcomers to the Alpine Association were often greeted with mistrust by long-term members, who suspected that the Associations growing popul arity was spurred by the desire for reduced fees at mountain huts and other travel bargains (Gnthe r 83). Long-term members also complained that the growth of the organiza tion caused a loss of group cohesion; they no longer felt part of a community of Alpinists (Gnther 79-82). To combat this discontent and to preserve the desired character of the Association, some members called for increases in annual dues to weed out the ba rgain hunters among the new members or trial 29


periods in which the abilities and values of the hopefuls could be observed and judged for their f itness as potential Associ ation members (Gnther 83-4). This growth in organizational popularity can be attributed largely to the increasing mobility of the middle class; rising standards of living enabled more individuals to afford trav el. During this period, Alpini sm was also experiencing something of a democratization. As discu ssed in chapter one, the tradition of professionally guided tours fell out of fashion in the last decades of the 19th century. Transportation to and through the Alps was gr eatly facilitated by th e 1909 completion of a highway through the Austrian Dolomites; st arting points for tours were now accessible for anyone with a vehicle (Eternal Mountai ns 109). This same time frame saw the construction of a significant number of mountai n huts, representing an increased capacity for hikers in the mountains (Gnther 88-9). Pa rtially due to the effo rts of newly-formed youth organizations such as the Wandervgel and the Pfadfinder, more young people were also streaming into the mountains. This development was a point of resentment for some adult Alpinists, who perceived the young hikers as essentially unserious. In the early 1920s Ernst Enzensperger published in Association newsletters complaints about the flood of unprepared and child ish youth traveling in the Bavarian Alps. According to Enzensperger, they lacked the necessary know-how to take ca re of themselves and, often traveling in mixed gender groups represented an affront to the serious and contemplative nature of Alpinism. The Association responded by crafting restrictions on the lodging of unguided youth in their huts (Gnther 123-5). Clearly the Alps were becoming a popular travel destination for more than just th e professional men of the upper classes. 30


The appeal of Alpinism was broadening at a rate which alarmed the old guard of the Alpine Association. Concerns over th e contributions of the Association to the undesirable growth of tourism were expressed in the organizations newspaper. The response came in the form of a revision to the Associations missi on statement. In 1927, after many years of debate, the mission statement was altered from to facilitate travel in the Alps to to foster mountain climbing and enable hiking in the eastern Alps (Gnther 96). This change refl ected the consensus that the Alps were becoming a tourist destination and that the Alpine Association wished to maintain its special status as an elite organization with goals of intellectual a nd spiritual self-education via experiences in nature. As the Alps became an increasingly well-established as a tourist destination, the mountains also came to play a prominent ro le in other cultural realms. Between 1900 and 1930 the Alps became a playground for competitive athletes as well as the setting for the popular Bergfilme. Both of these new functions were heavily debated within the Alpine Association; both represented the transformation of Alpinism into a mass spectacle. The two conflicts resolved themselves differently but demonstrated the determinedness of the Alpinists to control their image among th e general public and their resistance to perceived cheapenings of the move ments seriousness and dignity. Competitive sports became popular in Ge rmany around the turn of the century. A cultural import from England, the concept of competitive sport had little basis in German history. The Turnen movement of 19th century embraced a range of physical exercises and games, discouraged objective measuremen ts of performance and competition, and 31


was distin ctly tinged with a nationalistic hu e. Competitive sports such as soccer, track and field, and rowing were introduced from England in the late 19th century and subsequently became popular in Germany (P fister 72). Like these more conventional spectacle sports, both athl etic mountain climbing and sk iing were imports, climbing from England (although the Germans and Aust rians contributed significantly to its development) and skiing from Scandinavia. Many notable German climbers were active in the 19th century, but the British, with their elite athletic Alpine clubs, were particularly significant actors in the development of climbing as a purely athletic endeavor, with notable examples being Albe rt Frederick Mummery and Eduard Whymper. Within the Alpine Association, the Versportlichung of climbing and skiing in the form of competitions and races met with general di sapproval (Gnther 114-16). The prioritization of performance and danger implicit in the pr ofessionalization of the two sports marked a significant departure from the values of the Alpine Association. Competition also invited the gaze of the masses, which the Alpinists shunned. However, the tendency towards professionalization and competition in the athletic world ultimately did not translate well into the Alpine realm; the difficulty of crafting objective standards for performance and the relative isolation of the theater for the sports did not allow fo r many spectators. The debate surrounding the tr ansformation of Alpinism into a spectacle sport died down after World War One and ceased to appear in the Association publications (Gnther 151). However, with one troubling development out of the way, another promptly appeared. The introduction of the m ountaineering experience into mainstream consciousness via the cinema began in the ea rly 1920s with the film of Dr. Arnold Fanck. Fancks first major feature film, Der Berg des Schicksals appeared in 1924 to an overwhelmingly 32


positiv e popular reception. The burgeoning success of Fancks films created concern among the Alpinist community, many of whom were displeased by what they perceived to be misrepresentations of mountaineering with the potential to miseducate the public on a large scale. With the advent of the mountain films in the cinema, the power of representation of the mountaineering expe rience was appropriated by Fanck and his cohorts. Where previously the image of m ountaineering conveyed to the public was accomplished primarily through literary means tour reports, essays, short novels and poetry published by Alpinists and secondarily through media such as painting and photography, film now created compelling imag es distributable to a mass audience, far greater than the one reached by Alpinists written works. W ith the control of their own public image wrenched out of th eir hands, Alpinists began to express their disapproval of the new image being crafted in the public eye. Criticism of the new mountain films was typically expressed in reviews published in Alpine Association periodicals and the Allgemeine Bergsteiger-Zeitung (Holt 223). Complaints leveled included the charges th at the films were technically inaccurate, represented excessive risk-taki ng, and were kitschy and sensati onalist. In short, Alpinist reviewers condemned the films for the ways in which they failed to match their own personal experiences. Some reviewers demons trated more sympathy towards cinematic representations of mountain eering than others; the write r and Alpinist Hans Barth defended the right of the films to imagine plots and embellish images of actual mountaineering as long as they did not depa rt too significantly from reality and were sufficiently artistic (Holt 223). Barth did imply that Fancks films were overly dramatized and thus betrayed their e ssential shallowness, which he found insulting to the 33


mountaineering spirit and pr actice (Holt 224-5). Finally, Barth invoked the educative power of the m ountain films and warned that the films misrepresentation of mountaineering practice and risk -assessment could be detrimen tal to credulous viewers, particularly youth, who might attempt to recreate the cinematic feats (Holt 225-6). Another reviewer, L. Landl, published an article in the Allgemeine Bergsteiger-Zeitung which similarly warned against the dangers of sensationalized screen images of mountaineering. Landl also charac terizes the experience of view ing an Alpine film in the cinema as inherently opposed to the real experience of mountai neering; the cinema experience is by nature alienating, while ac tual mountain climbing is a camaraderie building experience (Holt 229). Th ese reviews, with their concern for th e films educative repercussions and fair repr esentation of the mountaineers values and conduct, express criticisms largely exclusive to the Alpinist community. With the advent of the mountain films, a rift between the experience of mountaineering and popular representations thereof thus arose which, desp ite the protests of a number of Alpinists, was not to be reconciled, but rather furthe r developed throughout the 20th century via a variety of media as mountaineering became an object of public interest. With the outbreak of World War I, the Ge rman-Austrian Alpine Association lent its support to the war effort both ideologically and materially and thereby allowed itself to be drawn from its previously isolated and pr ivileged social status into participation in the contemporary national-militaristic conscious ness. Rather than being an active force in the shaping of wartime national dialogue, the Alpine Associat ion declared its support for the war by emphasizing the affinity between Al pinists and soldiers, contributing to the 34


glorification of the noble war and its so ldiers. The Alpine A ssociations initial abstention from participation in national dialogues is remarkable; although founded shortly before Bismarcks unification of the German Reich, the Alpine Association appears to have had little interest in the military actions of the 1860s and 1870s. The Associations explicit support for Germanys efforts in World War I thus marked a turning point in its particip ation in national public life; the Association began to demonstrate a marked interest in the affair s of the nation around this time. The Alpine Associations supported the war effort bot h ideologically and materially and the experience of the soldiers stationed on the Ty rolean Alpine front created a new class of Alpinists with a unique relati onship to the mountains, whose nationalistic identification with the landscape would shape subsequent dialogues of the Alpi ne Association. At the outbreak of the war, the Alpine Association threw itself wholeheartedly behind the military. Many of its members enlisted quickly. The activities of the Alpine Association largely ground to a halt during the war; apart fr om sporadic meetings, which typically consisted of updates on the war effort and news of local deployed members, and the periodic submission of the names of the wa r dead to the Associations central office, the organization was not active during the war (Eternal Mountains 116). Its members were widely dispersed in support of the wa r, either on the primary fronts as active soldiers or commissioned officer s, or, particularly in the case of those on the margins of the ideal age for service, on the Alpine fr ont serving in specia l units or as noncommissioned officers. These men were invaluable in thei r educative capacities; the climbing and navigational skills of the Alpi nists serving on the fr ont as well as their awareness of the landscapes nuances benef ited their units (Eter nal Mountains 117). 35


Beyond the efforts of individuals, the Alpine Association took substantial pains as an organization to support the Germ ans and Austri ans in their collective struggle against the Italians. The Alpine Associati on had already signed an agreement with the German army prior to the war that the Asso ciations huts would be available to the military if needed (The Mountains Roar 257). The club prepar ed educative leafle ts about mountain survival for distribution to th e troops. It also donated maps, blankets, and other supplies to the army. Austrian sections made substantial donations directly to their national army, while their German Alpinist counterparts ch anneled their donations primarily towards charity funds and other auxiliary forms of support (Eternal Mountains 115-6). The contributions of the Alpine Association were small when compared with the overall scale of the war, but the unity within the organi zation in the face of national challenge was remarkable. The club demonstrated signi ficant patriotism in its wholehearted commitment to supporting Germany and Austria in the war via its material contributions. In addition to the material support lent to the war effort, the Alpine Association demonstrated ideological support for the so ldiers on the front. Contributors to the Association publications procla imed an affinity between the soldier and the Alpinist, whose values and virtues closely resembled one anothers. Like the so ldier, the Alpinist embraced struggle, was brave and loyal, a nd represented the vanguard of the nations strength. By elevating the common soldier to a moral equivalency with the elite mountaineer, the Alpinists wholeheartedly embraced the soldiers. They also raised themselves to the soldiers level of societal importance; the work of the Alpinist, though practiced in a very limited realm, could easily become the work of the soldier, affecting the whole nation. When the Alpinist now exchanges his pick-axe for the sword, his 36


efforts rem ain devoted to the same ideals. It is cultural work now as before, wrote one member, demonstrating the burgeoning sense that the activities of the Alpinists were in fact national and cultural in nature (qtd. in Eternal Mountains 117). The extension of Alpinists self-conception into the public realm became much more pronounced in the context of World War I. The Alps, as we ll as the achievements and values of the Alpinists, symbolized the stre ngth and dignity of the Germ an nation, and this symbolism became particularly poignant in light of the war. Furthermore, the appeal of Alpinism to the German people strongly resembled the in itial appeal of the war: Both offered renewal and an end to degeneration ( Eternal Mountains 119). The Alpinists experience, like the soldiers, contributed to the vitality of the na tion. Implied in this resemblance is the importance of a quasi-militaristic or literally militaristic defense of the integrity of the nation; the glorification of Germany is achieved through demonstrations of strength, the antidote to decadence and societ al decline. The experiences of soldiers on the Alpine front during the war fu rther developed this affinity. While the primary arenas of action in th e East and West quickly contradicted the glorified images of war current in the minds of the populace, the Alpine front represented a substantially different experience of the war. Soldiers stationed in the mountains represented a broad spectrum of ages and tr aining backgrounds. Additionally, the fighting in the mountains was ill-suited to the methods of modern trench warfare developing on the other fronts. Finally, the front was located on Tyrolean soil, creati ng a clear feeling of defending home territory. Prior to World War I, only the Italians had deliberately developed their human capacity for mountain warfare. Their Alpini elite units of specially trained soldiers, were 37


for med in 1872. In stark contrast to the It alians, the Austrians had not designated any units for Alpine warfare prior to Italys declaration of war on May 23, 1915, catching military officials off guard. Given their relatively limited Alpine territory, the Germans had likewise not organized any special units; during the war, the Germans played only a supporting role to the Austrians in the Alps. After the Italian decl aration of war, the Austrian army, unable to spare troops from the Eastern front, called the Tyrolean Landesschtzen militias to action in the Alps. The men of prime fighting age had already been deployed and only the older men of the militias remained to respond (The Mountains Roar 258). The German army cont ributed one division to the effort: the Alpenkorps, formed in direct response to the situation in Tyrol at the urging of General Erich von Falkenhayn. The Alpenkorps drew a broad range of volunteers with mountaineering experience from across Ge rmany, as well as a number of men transferring from the Western front (The Mountains Roar 258-9). In total, the Germans and Austrians with a total of fifteen division s faced the numerically superior Italians, who had mustered thirty five divisions. Ultimatel y, numerical superiority proved to be of little importance on the battle field. The Alpine front was wholly unlike the Eastern and Western fronts. The terrain did not allow for trench warfar e, substantial use of artiller y, the application of weapons such as gas, or even large-scale troop moveme nts. Squads patrolled their territory looking for enemy soldiers. Larger battles were of ten standstills as ad vances up the mountain were nearly impossible under enemy fire (The Mountains Roar 260-1). Like all soldiers, the troops in the Do lomites experienced feelings of intense isolation and loneliness, but the hostile landscape and comp lete absence of civilians exacerbated this 38


atm osphere. The isolation was particularly salient during the oppre ssive winter months. However, the Alpine front had the advant age of being home te rritory. Unlike their counterparts in the East and th e West, the troops in Tyrol were literally fighting to protect their native soil. While the landscape height ened the oppressive sense of isolation, the proximity to home imbued the struggles on th e Alpine front with a concrete sense of meaning. The war experience in the Alps did not challenge the glor ified, patriotic image of war current in 1914 as drastically as the wa r in the major theaters did; the small scale of combat and comparatively primitive battle s as well as the sense of actively defending the homeland corroborated the mythos of the noble war more than it contradicted it. In the wake of World War I, the Al pine Associations elitism assumed increasingly explicit nationalist and racist undertones. In many ways, Alpinism and the Alpine Association demonstrated an excep tionally sensitive responsiveness to the pressures of the interwar period. Already a re fuge from the turmoil of daily life for many due to its escapist character, Alpinism con tinued to attract new devotees of nature, and people continued to flock to the mount ains in large numbers. A range of contemporaneous movements manifested a host of anti-modern sentiments which resembled Alpinisms rejection of urban industrialization. A general frustration with modernized life current in Germany was thereby demonstrate d. Additionally, the relationship between Alpinism and militaristic rhetoric c ontinued to evolve throughout the Weimar years and the Nazi era. The mass phenomenon of Alpine tourism reflected the extent to which desire for contact with nature and respite from the pressures of the 39


city had penetrated Germ an cultural cons ciousness, while the Alpine Association specifically demonstrated its affinity with vlkisch political thought. The Alpine Associations wartime rh etoric was not easily reconciled with Germany and Austrias defeat. With Germ any condemned internationally for its aggression, the now-martialized mountain c limber likewise found hi mself under scrutiny. Rather than retreat from the soldierly patr iotic identity cultivated during the war, the Alpinists embraced their nati onal pride, their militaristic masculinity, and their competitiveness in the mountaineering world. Th e defense of their German identity and militaristic values led the Alpinists into vlkisch affiliations and discourses, culminating in a close affinity between the Nazi party and mountaineering in the 1930s. The alienation effected by industriali zation, the 1923 currency collapse and 1929 world financial crisis, and the societal havoc in the aftermath of the war forced the German populace to seek refuge from reality during the interwar period. As discussed in the previous chapter, Alpinism had long serv ed as an escapist pastime for wealthy citydwellers. The need for relief from everyday life became increasingly pervasive across a broad societal spectrum. The cinema represen ted a refuge from soci ety; the Ufa-produced Kulturfilm documentaries which began appearing in theaters in 1924 enabled audiences to experience foreign cultures and new lifestyles via the consumpti on of screen images. Some fine artists embraced neo-classical aesth etic trends, such as highly-stylized Art Nouveau and the revitalization of pastoral a nd agrarian motifs, such as the Heimatkunst movement of the late 19th century. Possibilities for escape from reality multiplied during the interwar period in response to societal pressures and Alpinism became only one phenomenon in a wave of related trends. 40


The shame foisted on Germany in the wake of the war exacerbated extant cultural escapist tendencies but among some sectors of the population also prompted efforts to reaffirm national prestige. Mountaineering repr esented an ideal arena in which to prove Germanys strength; growing in interna tional popularity, mountain climbing was a burgeoning subject of public interest. The Alpine Association accordingly began to exercise official judgment over the make up of its membership, cultivating the organizations Germanic identity. Racist dialogu es came to the fore in the debate over the inclusion of the Jewish Section Donaula nd in the Association. The new emphasis on racial exclusivity within the Alpine Associ ation demonstrated a new concern about the nature of the clubs membership base; prev iously, the denigration of the clubs lofty ideals through the materialism and incompatib ility of lower-class members was the main concern, and in the post-war years the raci al integrity of the group assumed primary importance. The Vienna-based Donauland Section was a club of Jewish Alpinists. It was incorporated into the German-Austrian Alpi ne Association in 1921 despite substantial protest. Debate and calls for the exclusion of the Donauland Section arose immediately. At the 1924 Alpine Association general assembly, section leaders voted in favor of the expulsion of the section, which was subs equently accomplished under the faade of various spurious accusations (Zebhauser 78). The decision to expel the Donauland Section was met with vocal but limited resistance, particul arly from the organizations Berlin sections (Zebhauser 81). Compromise s reining in the more radically racist tendencies within the Associa tion were parceled with the Donauland decision. The rightleaning faction Deutsch-Vlkische Bund (German Peoples Alliance), a loose association 41


of approximately seventy sections with nati onalist or anti-Semitic leanings, was to be dissolved (Zebhauser 76-9). Additionally, th e proposal that an Asso ciation-wide clause restricting the membership of Jews be introduced was to be tabled for eight years (Zebhauser 79). However, the tendencies to wards radicalism and racism within the Alpine Association were nurtured by the increasing promin ence of right-wing political discourse and the sympathy of the Nazi party to it s activities. The Nazis utilized Alpinism to dive rse ends. The accomplishments of elite mountaineers were a source of national prestige, and the Alps themselves were a symbol of a grodeutsche nation. Furthermore, the mountains provided a vacation destination for the masses, facilitated by the regimes Kraft durch Freude program. Although mountaineering and hiking fell under the purview of the Nazi bureaucratic Deutscher Reichsbund fr Leibesbungen the Alpine Association enjo yed a privileged status and was allowed to continue its ac tivities. After 1938 and in light of the Austrian annexation, the organizations were conso lidated to form a single Germ an Alpine Association under official Nazi oversight. Alpinism was again cast in a militaristic light during the Nazi years. Mountaineering accomplishments affirmed national prestige and vi rility; Alpinism represented the strength of the nation. The 1938 conquering of the Eiger North Face by a German-Austrian team and numerous danger-f raught expeditions to the Himalayan peak Nanga Parbat reinforced the image of Germans as a skilled and st rong people capable of embracing struggle. Alpinism became an emblem of the new German Reich; the state projected militaristic strength and determin ation onto the German mountaineers and accordingly embraced them as a model for the rest of the Volk Reichssportfhrer Hans 42


von Tschamm er und Osten praised mountaine ers for their intimate understanding of struggle: Mountain climbing always means a struggl e with nature and a training of the body and education of the character is cer tainly bound up with th is struggle, but it must already be a warlike person with a trained and able body w ho enters into this struggle with the mountains, if he wants to go forth out of this ring as the victor. I do not need to teach the mountain climber about struggle because mountain climbing itself already means to st ruggle. (qtd. in Zebhauser 120-1).1 Von Tschammer und Osten illustrates the le vel on which the states self-conception resonated with its image of the Alpinists a nd clearly portrays the attributes which the Nazis wished to engender in the general popu lation. Through the World War I experience and the popular representations of Alpi ne mountaineers on the screen in the Bergfilme mountaineering became a value-laden nationa l pastime rather than an exclusively personal pursuit. Alpinists became accessible to the state via increased public visibility and the Nazi state in turn appr opriated their image to bolster the restoration of its battered national self-c onception. Prior to the eve of World War I, the Alpine Associat ion displayed no systematic engagement with political and national questions; although formed in the era of German national unification under Bismarck, nationa list motives and agitation among Alpinists 1 Bergsteigen bedeutet in jedem Fall Kampf mit der Natur und mit diesem Kampf ist wohl eine Schulung des Leibes und eine Erziehung des Charakters verbunden, aber es mu von vornherein ein kmpferischer Mensch mit geschultem und gewandtem Leib in diesen Kampf mit den Bergen treten, wenn er als Sieger aus diesem Ringen hervorgehen will. ...[D]ie Bergstei ger brauche ich nicht das Kmpfen zu lehren, weil Bergsteigen selbst Kmpfen bedeutet. 43


44 remained primarily a personal matter. Primarily upper-class in membership, the Alpine Association also remained socially ex clusive through the fi rst years of the 20th century. The early Alpine Association thus represented an isolated social enclave within Germany until changing standards of living effected by the industrializing economy and new forms of media make the Alpine m ountaineering experience availabl e to a significantly broader segment of the population. Alpinism grew in symbolic importance to Germanys national identity via its newly-emphasi zed militaristic connotations and racial exclusiveness. These tendencies in combination with a consiste nt rightwards trend in members political affiliations in the interwar period demonstrate the nature of the Alpine Associations integration into general cont emporary cultural discourses.


4. Arnold Fancks Der Heilige Berg Arnold Fancks 1926 film Der Heilige Berg tells the story of an ill-fated love triangle between the dancer Diotima (Leni Riefenstahl), the mount aineer known only as the Friend (der Freund; Luis Trenker), and his young skier friend, Vigo (Ernst Petersen). The film premiered on December 17, 1926 at the Ufa-Palast am Zoo in Berlin. Fanck had encountered substantial difficulties with the release and promotion of his 1924 film Der Berg des Schicksals but its success won him suffici ent notoriety to ensure a comparatively auspicious premiere for Der Heilige Berg Der Heilige Berg constituted another significant milestone in Fancks directorial career. The film opens with a prologue, Diotima s Dance to the Sea (Fig. 1.1). Diotima performs an expressionistic dance on the seashore, evoking th e rhythm of the waves, as an apparition of the mountain hovers on th e horizon (Fig. 1.2). As the plot begins, Diotima is performing in the Grand Hotel (F ig. 1.3). The two male protagonists from the nearby village, Vigo and the Friend, both fall in love with her while watching the show. The boyish Vigo approaches Diotim a to flirt after he r performance, while the older, more mature and introverted Friend makes a quick departure (Fig. 1.4). The next day, the Friend and Diotima encounter each other at a mountain hut and fa ll in love, announcing their engagement in the next scene (Figs. 1.5 and 1.6). The Friends elderly mother warns him about marrying Diotima, but he hurries o ff again into the mountains to seek out the perfect spot to celebrate th eir engagement. While the Friend is away, Diotima goes to watch a ski race in the village which the talented Vigo wins. Diotima promises to grant him a wish as a prize for his victory and Vi go embraces her, laying his head in her lap. 45


The Friend stum bles upon this encounter wi thout recognizing Vigo and assumes that Diotima has been unloyal. In a rage, he co llects his climbing equipment and the newlyreturned Vigo, and the pair set off to conquer the Santo North Face. The two men are forced to bivouac on an ice ledge in a storm and they begin to talk. The Friend realizes that Vigo is the man he saw with Diotima. Vigo stumbles off the ledge in the ensuing confrontation and the Friend holds him on a r ope all night, unable to lift him onto the ledge (Fig. 1.7). Meanwhile, a worried Diotim a organizes a rescue attempt. Hallucinating as he freezes to death, the Friend has a vision of walking into a giant ice cathedral hand in hand with Diotima, who retreats into the dark ness as they approach the altar (Figs. 1.8, 1.9, and 1.10). Early in the morning, the rescuers sight the climbers just as the Friend walks off the cliff to his own death. The f ilm closes with Diotima returning to the seashore. Der Heilige Berg depicts an anti-urban and anti-feminine world. The landscape is polarized into masculine and feminine extrem es along a vertical axis, with the mountain peaks associated with the masculine and the sea associated with the feminine. The film delivers a scathing rejection of all that falls outside the scope of the masculinized alpine world: Diotimas femininity, rendered danger ous; the intrusion of outsiders into the mountains; and a degenerate, weak moral code. The relationship between person and nature is exclusive; communion with mount ain nature is only accessible to those who prove themselves worthy. The mountain lands cape also assumes e xplicit connotations of sacredness through the ice cathedral scene. 46


The Friend represents a militarized heroism closely intertwined with concepts of comradery and loyalty. He also resembles a Ro mantic hero in his close association with nature and apparent alienati on from both village life and th e urban society represented by the tourists. In contrast with the younger Vigo, the Friend illus trates a mature and serious masculinity commensurate with the de manding conditions of the mountains. Germanic identity is constructed around the symbolism of the Alps, and this identity is conceived of in exclusive terms; the true alpinist is anti-urban, anti-modern, and anti-feminine. Strength, l oyalty, masculinity, and a deific ation of the pure and sterile mountain landscape characterize the Friend, who is the films ultimate hero. The portrayal of the tourists at the Grand Hotel emphasizes their degene rate tastes and weak sense of morality. The charac ters living in the closest c onnection with the mountains form the standard by which al l other characters are judged; alpine village and alpine nature represent the purest and most true Germanic identity. The polarization of the films landsca pe along a vertical axis, from mountain heights to valley lowland, as well as in the contrast between indoor and outdoor spaces, represents the variety of huma n relationships to nature. Ther e is a clear valuation along these axes, with the mountains being superior to the lowlands, and the outdoors to the indoors. Gender and nativeness to the Alps larg ely determine individual relationships to nature. The construction of th e relationships between gender, nativeness, and space is effected through cuts, the use of tinted film stock, and dram atic staging that locates characters in environments re flective of their essential role in the film. Michael Ott develops the theory of the ge nder implications of this vert ical axis in his essay Die 47


Weie Hlle. Gender-Konzepte im deutschen Be rgfilm um 1930, and I will draw on his arguments throughout this section. In addition to corroborating his thesis, I will delve into the films commentary on urbanity and tourism, as well as images of the sacredness of the mountain landscape, and explore the visual techniques used to effect this construction. Diotima represents the association betw een femininity and the sea. She also represents the intrusion of the urban tourist into the alpine world. Her essential nature and dangerous intrusion into the mountain landscap e ultimately bring about the deaths of the Friend and Vigo. The prologue, Diotimas D ance to the Sea, establishes this connection; Diotimas movements mimic th e rhythm and rolling of the waves, and intertitles proclaim the sea to be her home. Her affinity with the sea implies that, like the moving water, she is changeful and incons tant dramatically different from the unchanging mountains. Diotimas dancing represents degene rate urban modernity. Her dances are abstract, expressionistic, and wholly new for the period in which Der Heilige Berg was produced. She performs only at the seashore and in the Grand Hotel, before audiences of wealthy tourists. The confinement of her dances to these spaces implies their incompatibility with the mount ain and village landscape. In her hotel performances, Diotima entrances her spectators; her performance seduces both the Friend and Vigo. Her dancing is decidedly modern, appeals primarily to the vacationing urbanites, and brings about the destruction of the two village me n. Femininity, urbanity, and modernity are combined in her person, and are decisively condemned by the films tragic outcome. 48


The mountains are designated as the pr ivate and exclusive realm of the Friend. Intertitles and images of the mountain in the prologue associate the Friend with his holy mountain, and identify the man-mountai n figure as the object of Diotimas desire. As she dances and dreams of the Friend, the mountain hovers as an illusion on the horizon above the sea. The intertitle following Diotimas first performance at the hotel implies that the Friend possesses the mountains : But the Friend storms upwards, high in his mountains, to become master of the overpowering impression (Fanck Der Heilige Berg ).1 The use of the possessive pronoun strength ens the association between the Friend and the mountain landscape. The intertitle also indicates that the mountains have restorative power for the Friend; they are a pu rifying influence that enables him to regain the self-control jeopardized by the degenerate feminine. Diotimas intrusion on the Friends realm disrupts the bond of masculine comradery and the purity of the mountain. Diotima remains confined to the village, valley, and indoor spaces throughout the film. She never goes above the level of the hut, the last marker of civilization on the mountain. Her engagement to the Friend, a nd the planned celebration thereof on a mountain peak, represents the reconciliation of the masculine and feminine poles. The Friends mother presciently warns against their union, telling her son, The sea and the mountain shall never wed, and the engagement accordingly ends in failure and death. (Fanck Der Heilige Berg ).2 The plans to celebrate the engagement on a peak represent a kind of initiation. As the Friend goes off to s eek out the site for the celebration, Diotima begs him to take her along, but he refuses, thus denying her his permission to enter his territory. Even as the rescue party searches for the missing men, Diotima remains in the 1 Der Freund aber strmt hinauf, des bermchtigen Eindruckes Herr zu werden, hoch droben in seinen Bergen 2 Das Meer und der Berg werden nie heiraten. 49


hut, cut off from the mountain. Diotimas presence in the mountains becomes synonymous with marriage itself and both marriage and the mountain symbolize a reconciliation of the genders. The ice cathedral scene tr ansforms the mountain into sacred space. The Friends dream of walking through the ice cathedral with Diotima re interprets the dissolution of their engagement, absolving her of blame and imbuing the affair with a mystical quality. The choice of a cathedral as th e setting emphasizes the sanct ity of the mountains for the Friend; the mountain assumes e xplicitly religious connotati ons through this scene. The ice cathedral stands in for the peak on which the engagement was to be celebrated, reflecting the significance of the reconciliation of the ge nders. However, the mountain ultimately remains the realm of the masculin e, and Diotima must remain outside the sanctified space. The gender coding of the film landscape is also effected thro ugh the use of tinted film stocks which visually demarcate th e divide between masculine and feminine settings. Both blueand sepiatinted stocks are used. The warm sepia colors typically are associated with Diotima, indoor spaces and th e people in them, as well as the mother and the home. The blue stock is primarily used in scenes in the peaks and scenes dominated by the Friend. The film stills in this chapte r represent this general pattern as well as several significant exceptions. The hotel scene where the men see Diotima for the first time uses blue-tinted stock. Additionally, the shots of the Friend descending to the hut where he will meet Diotima use the sepia stock. Both of these scenes represent encounters of types, the essential mascu line and the essential feminine. During the performance, the Friends reacti on to Diotima is more signifi cant than her dancing; this 50


scene follow s her Dance to the Sea in the pr ologue closely and, as such, the viewer has already seen her dance. The performance at the hotel is thus about introducing the three characters and positioning the men to come into conflict over Diotima. The camera cuts back and forth between the men in a booth a nd Diotima on the stage; the expressions on the friends faces betray their very different emotional responses to the performance. Later, the Friends hike down to the hut is pa rt of a journey to Diotima, framed by shots of her climbing up through the valley. As th e two encounter each other personally for the first time, the tinted stock implies that the scene is dominated by Diotima; the Friend enters into her sphere as he falls in love with her. The contrasti ng implications of the choice of film stock are clearly highlighted during the rescue scene. Diotima braves the cold night on skis to reach the hut, where she can alert the villages skiers that the friends have gone missing. Blue-tinted stock is us ed for this journey. The men carousing, smoking, and playing cards in the hut are port rayed with the sepia stock. As they leave and begin the torch-lit rescue attempt and Di otima remains behind in the hut, the stocks are reversed. Diotima, safe from danger indoors, becomes associated with the warm coloring, while the risk-taking me n are portrayed with blue. Der Heilige Berg is Fancks only major film which uses tinted stocks. In an era of black and white films, the stocks represent an inventive attempt at color symbolism. The colors serve a narrative purpose, translat ing the changing dynamics of masculinity and femininity, as well as their associated concepts, into a visual manifestation. The core value of Der Heilige Berg is loyalty. Male friendship is portrayed as the strongest and most reliable interpersonal bond. The loyalty between the Friend and Vigo, 51


as well as that displayed by the rescue crew of mountaineers, is born of the m ountain climbing experience. Diotima lacks this l oyalty and steadfastness, and her influence interrupts the bond between Vigo and the Fr iend. Her identification with the sea symbolizes her unreliability, which stands in de liberate contrast to the steadfastness of the mountain-climbing men. The love triangle c onflict stems from perceived betrayals of trust and fidelity; the disrup tion of the bonds of loyalty e ffects tragic consequences. The mens loyalty to one another extends into death. The Friends willingness to die for Vigo, and the rescuers approval of hi s actions, evokes a militaristic ethos. Loyal friendship becomes the films most valuable relationship, and comradery ultimately trumps all other considerations. The films clos ing intertitle illustrates the significance of comradeship among mountaineers. The rescuer who delivers the news of the mens deaths to Diotima tells her: Among us, the greatest attribute is loyalty (Fanck Der Heilige Berg). The final intertitle frame of the film reads simply Loyalty.3 Unconditionally devoted comradeship is elevated above romantic love, which is portrayed as unreliabl e and prone to betray al. The community of mountaineers resembles a group of soldiers in both their loyalty to one another into death and their exclusion of women. In his close identification with the mountains, the Friend is alienated from the life of the village. He has few relationships to ot her characters, apparent ly preferring solitude in nature to community in the village. His em otional and spiritual life is located in the mountains. In contrast to the Friend, Vigo is gregari ous and cheerful, participating in the life of the village. He is mo re boyish than the serious and contemplative Friend. The 3 Treue 52


Friends self -exile from the village, br ooding contemplative demeanor, and solace in nature identify him as a protagon ist in the Romantic tradition. Der Heilige Berg implies the superiority of the rural over the urban. Only the villagers exemplify virtuous ness, while the tourists re present weak morals and degeneracy. The villagers typify the ideal of Germanic identity: not only are they the most sympathetic characters, they also inha bit the essentially German landscape of the Alps. In contrast to the villagers, the tour ists remain in indoor spaces throughout the film, never venturing out to expe rience the mountains. The dynami cs of space combine with the implied femininization of the tourists to reflect a scathi ng criticism of the shortcomings of urban tourists. While the vi llagers appear hearty and courageous, the tourists embody effeminacy and degeneracy. The tourists are identified with the Gr and Hotel, never (with the exception of Diotima) leaving this space. The role of tinted stocks in establishing this association has already been explored in an earlier section. Inte rior spaces are typically coded as feminine in the films gender dichotomy; the tourists conspicuous ab sence outside of the hotel implies an effeminate unwillingness to engage with the challenging mountain landscape. The hotel guests are portrayed dressed in luxurious clothing, drastically different from the rustic costumes of the village rs. They refuse to aid in the rescue effort, ignoring Diotimas pleas for help after she di scovers that the men have gone off to climb the Santo. The tourists enter the mountains wi thout truly participating in the landscape; they are consumers of a touristic experi ence. When Diotima encounters the mountain landscape for the first time, in her walk up to the mountain hut where she first meets the 53


Friend, her reaction is ab surdly contrive d; her overblown reaction parodies the overenthusiastic tourist (Fig. 1.11; Nenno 70). The touristic excu rsion into the real alpine landscape is a failure. Diotimas performances at the Grand Hotel represent the exportation of urban entertainment into the alpine environment for touristic consumption. Her performances identify her as a product of an urban envi ronment; her dancing could not possibly come out of the traditional village. The appeal of her dancing signifies the degenerately modern tastes of the audiences. The expressionistic quality of her dance is inseparable from her association with the sea; the prologue establishes this affinity. It is precisely this affinity that makes Diotima incompatible with the Friend and the villagers. However, the tourist spectators enthusiastically cel ebrate Diotimas performance, indicating the degenerately modern tastes they have cultivated. Der Heilige Berg portrays the conflict of tw o well-defined extremes. The feminine, the urban, the modern and degene rate are all bundled into Diotima and the tourists, while the masculine, the natural, st rength and purity are lo cated in the Friend, Vigo, and the other villagers. While all the ch aracters are German, the villagers represent a different kind of Germanness from the touris ts; the shortcomings of the urban visitors become clear throughout the course of the f ilm. The reconciliation of these factions causes suffering and death, implying dismal pr ospects for the rehabilitation of the degenerate urbanites. The landscape plays an active role in the films diegesis. It completes the characters; Diotima and the Friend could not exist without thei r situation in the 54


55 landscape. The mountains are transformed into literally sanctified space with the introduction of the ice cathedral. The c onnection between person and nature is not conscious, but internalized and essential.


Fig. 1.1 Diotimas Dance to the Sea Fig. 1.2 The holy mountain Fig. 1.3 Performing at the Grand Hotel Fig. 1.4 Vigo enthralled by Diotimas performance Fig. 1.5 First encounter at the hut Fig. 1.6 The Friend taken with Diotima 56


Fig. 1.7 The Friend holding Vigo on the rope Fig. 1.10 Loss at the altar Fig. 1.11 Diotima as parody of the tourist Fig. 1.8 Approaching the ice cathed ral Fig. 1.9 Ice cathedral 57


5. Leni Riefenstahls Das Blaue Licht Leni Riefenstahl made her di rectorial debut with the film Das Blaue Licht which premiered in Berlin on March 24, 1932. Later that year, it received the silver medal at the Venice Bienniale. The film was presented in theaters again in 1938, in the wake of Riefenstahls success with Olympia. A silent version with English subtitles was released in the United States in 1934. Das Blaue Licht did not mark the end of Riefenstahls collaboration with Fanck; she acted in one more Fanck film, S.O.S. Eisberg which debuted in 1933. Das Blaue Licht did represent a departure from Fancks model of the mountain film; themes of gender and the body permeate Riefenstahls film to an extent unreached in Fancks. Like Fanck, Riefenstah l puts the relationship between human and nature at the center of her film, with a mo re probing exploration of the depths of the spiritual affinity between the protagonist, Junta, and her se cret crystal grotto in the mountain. The interplay of commerce and civ ilization, juxtaposed w ith the innocence of nature, also forms a key theme in the film. Das Blaue Licht opens with a framing scene of a young couple arriving in the village of Santa Maria in thei r car (Fig. 2.1). The village children mob the car as it stops, offering large crystals and mi niature portraits of Junta (L eni Riefenstahl). The couple takes a room in the inn, where another portr ait of Junta hangs on the wall. The woman inquires about her, and the innkeeper brings a large, intricately bound book from a back room, which signals the be ginning of Juntas story. Juntas story also begins with the arrival of a traveler in the village. A man dressed in a traveling cape climbs out of co ach, which abruptly pulls away in a manner 58


rem iniscent of Nosferatu leaving the man with his bags at the villages edge (Fig. 2.2). The innkeeper meets him on his way into the village and leads him to the inn. On the roadside, the traveling artist Vigo (Mathias Wieman), not ices a collection of carved wooden figures in a nook in the rock face. The innkeeper explains that the figures represent the village s young men who die climbing toward s the mysterious blue light that appears on the side of the M onte Cristallo at every full moon. Later, Vigo watches as Junta approaches the square where many villagers are gathered to eat. Junta is clad in rags which contrast distinctively with the severe, heavy, black clothing of the villagers. As she stands at the edge of the s quare, a few mischievous children swat her basket from her hands, and a large crystal rolls out, which attracts the pointed attention of th e villagers. After wresting the crystal out of the hands of the man who stoops to pick it up, Junta flees for he r mountain refuge. Vigo enquires about her, and is told that she is the only one who can safely reach the blue light, and that the villagers consider he r a witch. After the death of one of the village young men during the next full moon, the villagers chas e Junta through the streets, pelting her with rocks. Vigo intercedes and enables her to escape to safety. Soon ther eafter, he heads into the mountains to find her home, and comes to stay in her hut, which she shares with a shepherd boy, Guzzi (Franz Maldacea). Vigo and Junta speak different languages and are unable to communicate, but Vigo continues to return, eventu ally staying many weeks at the hut. On the night of the next full moon, Vigo follows Junta as she climbs like a sleep walker towards the blue light. Having learned the route and seen the crystal grotto, he decides to share his knowledge with the vi llagers, hoping that the whole village will benefit from the wealth the crystals will bri ng and that Junta will finally be reconciled to 59


the townspeople. The villagers m ine the crysta ls and bring them down into the valley. On discovering this violation of her private sanctuary, Junta plummets down the rock face to her death, and Vigo finds her broken and lifeless body. The film closes with a return to the young visiting couple, who close the book and, going to the window, look out at the Monte Cristallo. Das Blaue Licht represents a complex intersec tion of gender, nationality, and nature. Riefenstahls choice to create a fema le protagonist is a clear break with her mentor Fancks traditions, and she imbues Junt a with an intimacy in her connection with her mountain that is not paralleled in a ny of Fancks characters. Juntas essential identification with the mountai n is also inextricably connected to her gender and sexuality; the crystal grotto a nd the blue light are symbols of Juntas feminine identity and power. Das Blaue Licht alters the dichotomy of Der Heilige Berg by coding all spaces in nature as feminine and symbols of civilization as masculine. Junta embodies the Naturkind type in her complete a nd unconscious identification with the mountain, and her innocence is ultimately her downfall. She becomes the helpless victim of the materialistic villagers, who exploit her for their financia l gain. Juntas tragic end represents the subjugation of the feminine and mystical to the masculine and pragmatic. Das Blaue Licht portrays the meeting of German a nd Italian cultures. The visitors to the village are German, while the villagers and Junta are Italian. Th is duality allows for the construction of national id entities, and the ultimate condemnation of both the German and Italian for their destructive civilized attr ibutes. The villagers e xploit Juntas natural wealth for their own enrichment, and the tr avelers consume Santa Marias commodified 60


heritage, symbolized by the crystals and m iniature portr aits. Both cultures play a designated role in the scheme of exploitation and degradation. Juntas relationship to the unsullied mountain nature is exclusive; no other character possesses the same attunement to the mountain that she does. Like the Friend and Diotima of Der Heilige Berg Junta is inseparable from he r situation in the landscape. Juntas life force resides in the crystals th at are the source of the blue light. The link between Junta and the crystals is both literal as established by her death after the mining of the grotto, and metaphorical, a represen tation of the feminine sexual power she possesses. The conflicts centering around the crys tals represent the st ruggles between the genders and extend into a commentary on clashing values. Juntas person is inseparable from the mystique of the crystals. They symbolize her life blood, an unconscious but essential pa rt of her, and their destruction is her destruction. In her introd uctory shot in the film, Junta leans forward against a backdrop of a raging waterfall, contemplating a crystal held in one hand (Fig. 2.3). The wildness of the setting and Juntas intense single-mindedness inspires disc omfort in the viewer; the shot implies precarious, wild abandon. Later in the film, as Vigo observes Junta climbing towards the source of the blue light, she appears to be in a similar trance-like state. In both of these shots, Junta does not contro l her own actions. Rather, she obeys the magnetic pull of the crystals, without premeditated intentions of her own. Juntas childlike nature further establ ishes her absolute innocence. Like her connection to the crystals, her innocence is an unconscious feature of her character. The grotto symbolizes Juntas purity, and its ultim ate destruction is made more tragic by the 61


im plications of a lost innocence. [Riefenst ahl] conceived Junta as an embodiment of purity. Juntas cavern has a vaginal opening and its interior is a womblike space. The grotto will be violated, and so too will be Junta (Rentschler Ministry of Illusion 48). The symbolism of the grotto evokes infancy and the tragic dest ruction of childhood innocence. Juntas utter unaware ness of her sexuality furthe r cultivates this metaphor. She shares her mountain hut with the young sh epherd boy, Guzzi. The two live in idyllic innocent harmony. Vigos appearance represents an intrusion onto th is natural order; Guzzi resents his presence and behaves to wards him with jealousy. Juntas costume throughout the film emphasizes the sensual ity of her body; however, she rejects the sexual advances of Vigo and Tonio with uncomprehending disgust. With her characteristic innocence, she offers Vigo a sleep ing place next to her in her hut when he first arrives, but their relationship remain s chaste throughout the film. Junta remains unaware of her body and sexuality throughout the film; her innocence is preserved through her childlike unawareness. The blue light symbolizes Juntas inaccessible femininity, and the magnetic draw of the light for the men of Santa Maria repr esents the power of the feminine over the masculine. Junta and the crystals constitute an elemental force capable of seducing young men to their deaths. Her ignoran ce of the power of her sexual ity absolves her of guilt in the eyes of the viewer, who is made to symp athize with Junta, but the villagers perceive Junta as a menace to their well-being. As in The Holy Mountain, sexual energy becomes a spiritual force Her attraction and that of the blue light ca use suicidal frenzy among the villages 62


young m ales. She becomes the target of the imperiled communitys anger and aggression, for the boys dying on the rocks are its future fathers. Juntas primal vitality and erotic magnetism are a public menace. ( Ministry of Illusion 40) Rentschler compares the attract ion of the blue light to Junt as sexual attractiveness. The fascination the blue light has for the men of Santa Maria is increased by its inaccessibility. Like the light, Junta is in accessible in her innocence, though the men do not articulate an explicit desire for her. Th e dangerous consequences of attempting to reach the light exemplify the essential conf lict between the genders: Juntas femininity poses a destructive threat to the well-being of the village, which is located in its men. The village is thus identified with its male i nhabitants; the women of Santa Maria are of secondary importance in comparison with their men. While Junta lives in concert with the mountain, the men are iden tified with the village. A comparison of Juntas costume and that of the village women illustrates the essential tensions between the factions. Junta embodies unrepressed, wild feminine sexuality, while the women of Santa Maria represent repression at the hands of religion and men. The contrast between Juntas rags a nd the villagers dress is clearest in the scene where Junta first appears in the villag e (Fig. 2.4). Juntas dress is torn, and her dress is short enough to reveal much of her legs. The camera cuts from a shot of her nervously observing the villagers moving throu gh the street to a shot of three elderly women standing before the church entrance The women are standing in a line, their heads turned over their shoulde rs to look disapprovingly back at Junta. They are clothed in high-necked, stiff black dresses. The sk irts are full and extend presumably to the ankles. The sleeves are like wise long. The women are al so wearing bonnets. They 63


em body stern severity, and the inclusion of the church entrance in the frame links their hostility with religion. The church stands for rigid morality and conf ormity. Juntas attire would be unwelcome within its walls. Lu cia, the fiance of Tonio and the only young woman shown in the village, typically wears a head scarf in the film. When her hair is revealed, it is wild and bushy; the scarf cont ains this image of vitality. Santa Maria is hostile to open displays of femininity. By denying the female body expression through restrictive costumes, the male villagers asse rt their dominance and claim the village as a masculine realm. Nature is feminine space in Das Blaue Licht Outside the village, Junta can embrace her unrepressed physicality without persecution. The alluring blue light expresses the unconscious magnetism of her sexual energy; the grotto is a reflection of Juntas character. This unity between person and nature occurs on a subconscious level. Junta retains a quality of childlike innocence throughout the film, which also characterizes her intimacy with nature. She never acknowledges her mystical connection to the crystals and blue light, but simply fa lls under their sway lik e a sleep-walker (Fig. 2.5). Through her unawareness, Junta absolves herself of the guilt for the deaths of the young men. Both nature and woman are inaccessi ble to the men of Santa Maria, and Junta, labeled a witch, is even actively ostr acized from the village. The village is a masculine realm, where the only women are reduced to a desexualized, secondary status. The landscape of Das Blaue Licht is gendered along a nature /civilization axis, which identifies nature as a feminine and irrationa l realm, and civilization as a masculine realm occupied with repression and instrumentality. 64


The encounter of German and Italian cultures portrayed in Das Blaue Licht critically constructs the identities of both groups. The re lationship between the cultures centers around commercial exchange, with the native Italians in Santa Maria commodifying their village heritage for the consumption of the tourist Germans. Both groups participate in Juntas destruction, whether directly or indirectly, and neither is spared its due condemnation. As was discusse d in the previous s ection, the villagers inhabit a masculine-dominated realm, which represses femininity and embraces material instrumentality even at the expense of a human life. The German tourists exemplify the process of modern degeneration which detaches the individual from his or her heritage, and fosters artificial and commidified re lationships to cultural identity. The Italian villagers are characterized by their materialistic preoccupations and pragmatic nature. The physical appearance of th e characters such as the appraiser in the initial village scene implies the alienating natu re of their greed. The appraiser sits in the courtyard near the inn, where a group of men present him with the crystals they have found. His fatness identifies him as being conc erned with wealth a nd possessions; he is fatter than the farmers, implying that he makes his living through processes of buying and selling rather than through work (Fig. 2.6). When he reaches to pick up the crystal Junta drops, the thickness of his fi ngers is obvious. His refusal to let go of the crystal symbolizes his greed. The petty worldliness of the villagers is also communicated in the celebration scene, after the mining of the gr otto. Drunken men stagger down the stairs, and two men sitting with Vigo compel him to stay for round after round of wine (Fig. 2.7). The celebration appears wasteful as the vill agers allow wine to spill onto the table in a shot reminiscent of the flow of bl ood, according to Rentschler (Fig. 2.8; Ministry of 65


Illus ion 42). Material wealth necessarily implies the destruction of the innocent and pure, here Junta and the sanctity of her crystals. Th e villagers accept the subjugation of Juntas person to the good of the village, paying what appears a disingenuous lip service to her sacrifice with the kitsch shown in the fram ing story. Linda Schulte -Sasse describes the outcome of Das Blaue Licht : [T]he basic tragic conflict is resolved when one set of values (nature) is nostalgically subjugated to another (instrumentality) (Schulte-Sasse 134). The choice to exploit Junta for the benefit of th e village is motivated by instrumentality; it is a pragmatic choice to benefit the greatest number of people. The villagers compromise their ow n integrity and mark themselv es as greedy through this decision. While the German-speaking tourists in Das Blaue Licht are not the active agents of Juntas destruction, they do represent the audience to which Santa Maria caters by entering into the modernized tourist econom y. They are the passive consumers of the authentic experience manuf actured for them by the natives (Nenno 70, 76). As a painter, Vigo represents the consumption of the aesthetic experience of the Alps (Fig. 2.9). His attempts to help Junta betray his naiv et; he promises her that she will no longer have to run around barefoot and in rags once th e wealth from the crys tals has reached her (Fanck Das Blaue Licht ). His vision for Junta is inherent ly misguided, as it assumes that it is best for her to be acculturated into the village civilization. Vigo demonstrates a dangerous lack of understanding attributable to his inexperience in the real world outside the big city. In cont rast to Vigo, the vacationing couple represent a much later period of German tourism, which depends on the existence of prepared spaces for tourist experiences. They are the consumers of the st ory of the village, which is a consciously 66


67 and deliberately prepared commodity, as repr esented by the book about Juntas life. Both Vigo and the vacationing couple come from a kind of urban vacuum, in which they need to seek out authentic experiences elsewher e. The failures of German civilization are implied by the presence of German-sp eaking tourists in the mountains. The gender coding of the landscape in Das Blaue Licht occurs along a civilization/nature axis rather than a mountain/lowlands dichotomy as in Der Heilige Berg The village represents the re pression of the feminine in favor of the masculine, and the relationship between the se xes is portrayed as mutually hostile a nd threatening. Likewise, the film implies that there cannot be harmony between nature and civilization. The construction of German identity in the film implies a criticism of modern urban culture, which eradicates heritage and creates a commodity-based consumption society. Das Blaue Licht nostalgically laments the loss of a world that never existed. Junta embodies an intimate connection with nature, a rejection of worldly materialism, and simultaneous sensuality and innocence. She is destroyed in pursuit of greater wealth and in defense of the patriarchal future of the vi llage. The security of th e village is assured by her death, but this prosperity is an ambiva lent good. There is no alternative for Santa Maria; removing the menace represented by the blue light is simply an inevitable step on the road to modernity. With the advent of a tourism industry, the village can be integrated into the modern world, with all the accompanying ambivalence.


Fig. 2.1 Arrival in Santa Maria Fig. 2.2 Evoking Nosferatu Fig. 2.3 Junta contemplating a crystal Fig. 2.4 Junta and the old women Fig. 2.5 A trance-like Ju nta in the grotto Fig. 2.6 The fat crystal dealer 68


Fig. 2.7 Celebrating the mining of the grotto Fig. 2.8 Spilled wine reminiscent of blood Fig. 2.9 Vigo painting at Juntas hut a tourist consuming the aesthetic experience of the alpine landscape 69


6. Arnold Fancks Die w eie Hlle vom Piz Pal Arnold Fancks Die weie Hlle vom Piz Pal premiered in Vienna on October 11, 1929. Like Der Heilige Berg Die weie Hlle is the story of an ill-fated love triangle, albeit with more complex relationships and motives. Maria Maioni (Leni Riefenstahl) and Hans Brandt (Ernst Petersen), an engaged couple, arrive at the Diavolezza hut in Switzerland to spend a few days alone together. They are friend s with the stunt flier Ernst Udet, who flies over the hut to drop the couple a bottle of champagne as an engagement gift. Later, as she looks through the hut visitors book, Maria comes across multiple entries made by a Dr. Johannes Krafft (Gustav Diessl). Hans tells Ma ria the story of Dr. Krafft: how he lost his wife in an avalanch e years before and that he returns to the mountain again and again. As Hans reaches the end of the story, the door to the hut swings open and Krafft stands framed in the door frame. A silent and imposing figure, he joins the couple at the table where they have already laid out thei r lunch. Maria, clearly moved by his suffering, eventually breaks the s ilence by offering Krafft a cup of tea. The tension gradually thaws. Maria clearly reminds Krafft of his lost wife and she continues to extend to him her sympathy and kindness, making Hans jealous. The guide and old friend of Kraffts, Christian (Otto Spring), arrives to greet hi s friend and bring news of a group of Zurich students planning to attemp t the north face of the Piz Pal in the morning. Early in the morning, Krafft prepares to leave for the north face but is stopped by Hans, who insists on accompanying him in an attempt to revalidate himself in Marias eyes. The two men set out, and Maria, waking ju st in time to see Hans walk out the door and reading the note he has le ft, catches up with the men as they stand discussing their 70


route. She insists on coming al ong, and the party of three sets off for the north face. T he day only further inflames Hanss jealousy as he watches Marias interactions with Krafft. In a moment of jealousy and frustration, Hans insists on taking the lead. He is knocked off the ice wall by an avalanche. His head is injured in the fall, but he survives. Krafft climbs down to rescue him and breaks his leg in the process. The party becomes trapped on an ice ledge. In the meantime, the party of students has been killed by an avalanche. Late that afternoon, Christian realizes that Kr afft has not yet return ed and he goes out to search for the group. He finds one of the stud ents and suspects that the rest of the group has fallen into the nearby crevasse. Christian returns to the village to collect the rescue team. The men retrieve the bodies of the students and set off to locate the missing climbers. The search continues for several da ys, but they cannot locate the group. In the meantime, Hanss injury has worsened and Kra fft sacrifices his hat and sweater to keep him warm. Maria likewise begins to struggle in the cold a nd intense snow; Krafft gives her his second sweater. Udet r eads about his friends in the newspaper and takes his plane into the mountains to locate them. He is su ccessful and directs the rescue team to the stranded group. However, Krafft, already de bilitated by the cold and his injury and having sacrificed his warm clothing to the ot hers, has chosen to die on the mountain in symbolic solidarity with his wife and has left Maria and Hans by the time the rescuers arrive. He leaves Christian a note explai ning his choice: You know I was always good friends with the ice (Fanck Die weie Hlle ). The narrow ledge where he dies is shown being covered in avalanche snow at the very end of the film. Maria and Hans are rescued and recover. 71


In Die weie Hlle human emotions and struggles are reflected in nature. Ice and water come to represent Kraffts internal turmoil. Arrogance and ambition are punished by the mountain. The characters and particularly Krafft are more intimately connected with the mountain than in Der Heilige Berg Where the Santo of Der Heilige Berg was a static symbolic framework for values and morality, the Piz Pal comes alive through its changeability, as it reflects emotions and interpersonal dynamics and exercises judgment over characters as expressed in injuries and deaths. In his tortured emotional state and obsession over the loss of his wi fe, Krafft embodies some of the key characteristics of a Romantic hero. He is a perpetual outsider, incapable of true happiness, and unable to connect to normal people. Also reminiscent of the Romantic tradition, many shots portray a lone figure silhouetted against a mountain panorama in the style of Caspar David Friedrich. Die weie Hlle perpetuates the Bergfilm pattern of the myster ious, troubled hero closely associated with nature. To a greater extent than in Der Heilige Berg this association is reflected on the screen in water and ice imagery, as well in shots that situate the individual in the mountain landscape. Die weie Hlle fuses the narrative and the visual in a manner evocative of Romantic literature and painting. Water and ice reflect emotional pain. Images of water and ice typically correlate with moments of recollection; associated earl y on with the death of Kraffts wife Maria and his inner turmoil, appearances of icicle s and water evoke the films first conflict. Maria Kraffts death creates an inner conflict for her husband, whose lack of closure and feelings of guilt are expressed in his wanderings on the Piz Pal. The viewer is told that 72


Maria Kraffts body rem ains frozen in glacial ice, never having been recovered. Images of melting ice, appropriately, remind Krafft of his wifes death and symbolize the release of difficult emotions. Freezing, as in Kraffts self-sacrificia l death, represents communion with the mountain and the beloved. I will di scuss various examples of ice and water imagery to further explore their symbolic implications. Icicles appear repeatedly throughout the film (Fig. 3.1). They are first imbued with significance as Krafft sits at the edge of the crevasse, waiting for Christian to fetch help from the village. Maria Kraffts fate looks dismal, but remain s unknown. Krafft sits alone, tapping his fingers, unable to go after his wife without assistance or the correct equipment. The camera cuts back and forth between the icicles, dripping in the sunlight, and Kraffts impatient face. A very simila r shot of melting icicles appears as Maria Maioni, Hans, and Krafft sit in the Diavolezza hut drinking tea. The icicles hanging from the eaves begin to melt as the warm Fhn blow s through and Krafft is visibly tortured by their dripping. He marches outside with hi s pick to knock the icicles down while Maria and Hans watch in astonishment from the table (Fig. 3.2). Icicles al so assume symbolic significance during the trios climb up th e north face. As the group surmounts a particularly difficult rock face, Krafft tr iumphantly smashes a row of melting icicles hanging from a ledge (Fig. 3.3). This progression of images shows the painful symbolic association between the melting icicles and the memory of his wifes death. The scene in which Krafft must wait without being able to help his wife implies the emotional agony and guilt he suffered as a result of her death; the dripping of the melting ice is cut in with shots of him impatiently tapping his fingers, reinforcing the symbolic association. His dramatic destruction of the icicles at the hut demonstrates the force of emotions the 73


m elting ice evokes in him. It is clear that he has not come to peace with his wifes death. When Krafft knocks down the icicles during the climb, it is a very different kind of destruction; he is overcoming the pain of the past through companionship, the possibility of conquering the mountain for the first ti me, and though projecting the memory of his wife onto the young Maria. Resolution is on Kra ffts horizon, and the icicles are suddenly a defeatable enemy rather than an emotional captor. However, as the danger of freezing to death becomes increasingly salient for the trio, different and furt her consequences of Maria Kraffts death begin to aff ect the fate of the climbers. Beyond the imagery of the icicles, me lting and freezing assume connotations grounded in the story of Maria Kraffts d eath but simultaneously represent complex emotional processes within the scope of th e films action. Melting remains associated with Kraffts inner turmoil, but also connotes the possibility of emotional renewal. When Krafft first appears at the hut, Maria offers him a cup of tea. He accepts, and she puts a pot of snow on the stove to melt for tea water (Fig. 3.4). As she sits in front of the stove watching the snow melt, she re peatedly looks back over at her shoulder at the silent Krafft sitting at the table (Fig. 3.5). The o ffer of tea represents the beginning of her affectionate sympathy for Kra fft. A similar shot of melting snow on the stovetop appears as the trio gets ready for bed the night before the climb. Krafft sees the young couple kiss as he writes his entry in the shelter logbook. Visibly affect ed by their hap py interaction, Krafft adds to his entry that he will be climbing alone. The shot lingers on the word allein, standing isolated on the page. The ne xt shot is the pan of melting snow on the stovetop, followed quickly by an image of Ma ria emerging from behind a curtain dressed in her bedclothes. The melting snow corresponds to an emotional thaw, as Krafft allows 74


hi mself to feel affection for Maria. This aff ection manifests itself in paternal concern; he worries that she will catch co ld sleeping next to the wall. Human happiness penetrates Kraffts tragic and embittered exterior. Allusions to freezing invoke death an d consequently symbolize communion both between mountain and human and between lovers. Krafft tells Maria th at a stream ran at the bottom of the crevasse where his wife died. Her unrecovered body presumably fell in the stream and later lay frozen in the glacier. At the end of telling his story, an image of Maria Kraffts face submerged in the icy stream is shown (Fig. 3.6). The mountain claims the corpse; her husband has lost her through his arrogance (as will be discussed later) to the vindictive mountain. In choosing to die on the mountain at the end of the film, Krafft too becomes part of the mountai n, thus rejoining his beloved. Hi s self-sacrifice is an act of humility and redemption; by giving all he has to save Maria and Hans, Krafft atones for his failure to protect his wife and can be rejoined with her in the mountain. Human emotional processes ar e reflected in nature in Die weie Hlle The Piz Pal itself becomes a character in Johannes Kra ffts life; it punishes him for his arrogance by claiming his wifes life, and ultimately Kr afft finds rest by allowing himself to be incorporated into the mountai n in death. Man and mountain ar e inextricably intertwined. In her discussion of nature motifs in Roma ntic poetry, Lilian Furst asserts that Such interpenetration of man and nature is freque nt in Romantic poetry and prose (and indeed painting too) when the natural milieu is assimilated to the individuals state of mind (Romanticism 30). Kraffts mind is fixated on the mountain, as evidenced by his regular visits; the rock and i ce have asserted their place in his psyche. The Romantic nature of the relationship between human and nature in Die weie Hlle is visually 75


reinforced by shots which locate the individual in the landscape in a manner that suggests the works of the painter Caspar David Friedrich. Die weie Hlle contains a plethora of shots comp osed of individuals silhouetted against landscape panoramas. These images appear repeatedly, and the style is used for virtually all of the characters at some point in the film. The effect of these shots is typically that the relative smallness and help lessness of the human is emphasized against the grandeur and hostility of nature. Both aw e and fear are inspired by these contrasts. This visual pattern is strongly reminiscen t of the Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrichs work. Friedrich primarily painted landscapes, but human figures often appeared in his paintings as well. However, these figures we re often indistinct, without detailed faces or portrayed only as silhouette s, with backs turned to the viewer. In Friedrichs paintings, humans are incorporated into the landscape as insignificant details, images of the finite passing through the infinite. The visual rela tionship of person to nature in Friedrichs paintings bears a strong resemblance to Die weie Hlle As discussed previously, the Piz Pal assumes an active role in Kraffts life, exerting judgment over his actions, and likewise reflects his inner emotional stat e in the depictions of ice and snow. This connection between human and nature is a legacy of the Romantic period, and in this section I w ill examine the visual representations of this relationship in Fancks film. Images of contemplative awe reinforce the mountain landscapes power over the characters. In Die weie Hlle as in Friedrichs paintings, human figures are absorbed into the majesty of nature, losing their indi vidual identities in contemplation of the 76


landscap e before them. Die weie Hlle uses several shots of the lead characters contemplating the mountain with backs turn ed to the camera, silhouetted against the whiteness of the snow. In the first shot, Hans turns away from sawing wood to gaze at the mountain (Fig. 3.7). The image gives the impre ssion of forlorn loneliness. Hans appears utterly alone, without any sign of the nearby hut or the other characters. In his distraction from his work at the saw horse, he also a ppears particularly vulnerable. He is not asserting himself by going about his own busin ess, but is distracted and presumably moved by the mountain looming behind him. In the next shot, Hans and Johannes consider their approach to the mountain shortly before Marias arrival (Fig. 3.8). Here the men are preparing to engage with the mountain, to begin their struggle to the top of the north face. As in the first shot, the men a ppear relatively large in comparison with the mountain, which fits neatly inside the fr ame. This size relationship is obviously deceptive, as is later proven by the char acters impotence against the Piz Pals destructive forces. In both examples, the relationship between vi ewer and landscape emphasizes mans foreignness in the mountains, but implies that the characters are still somehow beckoned into the harsh heights. These shots bear strong resemblan ces to Caspar David Friedrichs Wanderer over a Sea of Fog (1818) and Woman in Front of the Setting Sun (1820; Figs. 3.9 and 3.10). In Friedrichs paintings, human figures are likewi se placed in front of majestic panoramas, apparently contemplating them. The figures in these paintings as in many of Friedrichs other works remain without a distinctive vi sual identity; no faces are shown. However, the figures are both dressed in a dignified fash ion betraying high social status. This dress associates upper-class gentility with sensitiv ity towards and love for nature. The figures 77


postures further illum inate the human role in nature. The woman in the Setting Sun painting lifts her hands in a kind of salutati on to the beauty before her. The wanderer on the peak stands with one leg already stepping upwards and ahead and an arm bent in front of his torso. His posture implies a readiness to continue climbing, al though he has already reached the peak. These figures express the sa me sentiments present in the shots from Die weie Hlle The womans gentle and joyful demeanor reflects inescapable awe (albeit a more peaceful awe) much like Hans e xpresses as he turns away from his work to gaze at the Piz Pal. The wanderers ambition implied in having attained the peak and continued readiness expressed in his posture resembles Hans and Kraffts contemplation of their approach to the mountain. Both im ages imply an embrace of challenge and a desire to conquer the heights. Friedrich does not portray people reen tering an idealized state of nature; his figures remain distin ct and aware of their humanness amidst the landscape. However, the landscape reflect s elements of their inner state. Kraffts struggle with the mountain is motivated by his feelings of guilt over the death of his wife. Directly before his wifes fatal fall into the crevasse, Krafft laughs at Christians reproachful warnings against a rrogance and ambition. He appears overly selfassured and his lacking carefulness apparently leads to his wifes death. Blaming himself, Krafft wanders the mountain seeking resoluti on. His inner torment determines not only his actions, but also his beha vior: he is reticent, surly, and only visibly affected by Marias presence. In the mountain setting, Krafft is also completely removed from all indicators of human society. He has no context outside of the Piz Pal. In this regard, Krafft is an overly simplistic character: he has no life beyond the repercussions of his 78


wifes death Everything is motivated by his feelings about the accide nt and his life has ceased to exist outside his attempts to find ab solution of his guilt. Krafft seeks atonement, but his inability to master his emotions makes him unable to find it. Kraffts irreconcilable alienation and tortured individualism locate him in the tradition of the protagonists of Romantic literature. He is fixated on his own suffering and removes himself from human so ciety. He looks for resolution in a concrete conquering of the mountain; he repeatedly attempts to clim b the north face. His repeated visits to the mountain reflect intensity of emotion and enduring devotion. The Piz Pal has unforgettable meaning for him. That Krafft can grieve in a meaningful setting and possibly have symbolic avengement of his wifes death by conquering the mountain imbues his mourning with an unusually poignant force. While Krafft is undeniably selfabsorbed in his suffering, that suffering is given meaning as he experiences it in an almost-vital setting. The mountai n becomes a character in its own right, and Krafft has a distinctive relationship to it. The immedi acy of the mountain and Kraffts tangible struggle with it validate his suffering. While Kra fft appears to fit best with the tortured heroes of the Romantic period, he also provides a model of undeniably meaningful grief undoubtedly resonant in the inte rwar years. Kraffts abilit y to physically confront the legacy of his wifes death and freedom to remove himself from hu man society to do so were privileges denied to many families in th e aftermath of World War I. Rather than coping with his wifes death in the alienating milieu of th e big city, Krafft seeks and ultimately finds resolution in solitude and nature. The representations of suffering in Die weie Hlle reinforce the Romantic and anti-moder n image of nature as mans natural home. 79


80 Die weie Hlle vom Piz Pal portrays a vital relationship between man and nature. The mountain punishes hum an arrogance, but also serves as a setting for personal growth. Images of snow and ice directly reflect Johannes Kraffts emotional states, reinforcing his connection to the mountain. However vital the Pi z Pal becomes, it remains primarily an adversary for the film s characters. They are affected by the mountain, but there is no idealized state of nature to be attained by being there. The mountain remains a hostile and sterile environmen t, with a complete lack of any signs of life. The filmic landscape is completely dominated by ice and snow. Krafft seeks absolution from his guilt over his wifes death and finds that he can engage with the hostile forces of the mountain to resolve his emotional suffering. Die weie Hlle vom Piz Pal revisits themes and images of Romantic ism that evoke the es capist tendencies of Alpinism in the interwar period. The mountains are portrayed as a vital and emotionally poignant realm, free of the rea lities of modern day-to-day cares. The Piz Pal imbues the films characters struggles with meaning and immediacy and closes off the possibility of alienation and ennui.


Fig. 3.1 Icicles, a significant symbol in Die Weie Hlle vom Piz Pal Fig. 3.2 Dr. Johannes Krafft about to destroy a dripping icicle Fig. 3.3 About to triumphantly smash icicles on the climb Fig. 3.5 Melting snow for tea water at the hut Fig. 3.5 Maria offers Krafft a cup of tea at the Diavolezza hut Fig. 3.6 Maria Krafft submerged in a glacial stream 81


Fig. 3.7 Hans contemplating the Piz Palu Fig. 3.8 Hans and Krafft about to begin their climb 82


Fig. 3.9 Caspar David Friedrich, Wanderer over a Sea of Fog 1818 83


Fig. 3.10 Caspar David Friedrich, Woman in Front of the Setting Sun 1818 84


7. Luis Trenkers Berge in Flammen Luis Trenker began his cinema career as an actor in Fancks films, moving on to direct his own films in the late 1920s. Berge in Flammen appeared in 1931 and was Trenkers second film as a dire ctor. The film was the cause of considerable controversy between Trenker and Fanck, who claimed his pr otg had plagiarized the films concept from his own script-in-progres s; the dispute was resolved in Trenkers favor in court (Riefenstahl 72-3). Based on the battle for the Col di Lana, Berge in Flammen relocated the battle to the Collalto peak and port rayed the experiences and challenges of the Tyrolean defenders as they struggled to hol d the peak. Trenker himself fought in South Tyrol during World War I and had first-hand expe rience of front life, although he had not been stationed on Col di Lana (The Mountains Roar 263). Berge in Flammen opens with the young South Tyrolean Florian Dimai (Luis Trenker) accompanying his Roman friend Arthur Franchini (Luigi Serventini) on a climb on a Dolomite peak (Figs. 4.1 and 4.2). It is 1914 shortly before the outbreak of the war. The scene then cuts to Dimais village, wher e Austrias entrance into the war has just been announced. Dimai is deployed with his fe llow villagers to the Eastern front, leaving behind his wife, Pia (Lissy Arna), and th eir young child. After Italy declares war on Austria-Hungary, Dimai is transferred to th e Dolomite front. He is stationed on the Collalto, within sight range of his home village, which is occupied by Italian forces. No military mail leaves or comes into the village and Dimai and his fellow villagers have had no word from their families in over a year. Th e Austrian soldiers ho ld the peak and are under regular siege from the Italian forces, who are at a distinct disadvantage. The 85


Italians plot to tunnel upwards into the m ountain and detonate explosives, thus destroying the Austrian fortification (Fig. 4.3). The Au strians discover the pl ot but, isolated and lacking supplies, are helpless to stop the Italians (Fig. 4.4). When the noises of the tunneling operation finally stop, the Lieutenant sends Dimai on patrol to discover when the Italians plan to detonate. Dimai successfully descends into the vill age, where he visits his wife and overhears an orderly of his friend Franchini, who now heads the occupying forces in the village and has taken his wi fe under his protection, telling Pia that the explosion will occur in the evening of the next day (Fig. 4.5). While his wife begs him to remain with her, Dimai slips out of the hous e and reaches the Austrian barracks just in time to warn his fellow soldiers who abandon their position and head to safety, thereby successfully warding off the Ital ian attack. The films closing scene depicts Dimai, as a war cripple with a partially amputated ar m, and Franchini in 1931 hiking across the ravaged Collalto, implying reconciliation and the ability of friendship to bridge differences of nationality and politics (Fig. 4.6). Berge in Flammen engages questions of national id entity more straightforwardly than the other mountain films. Clearly marked by Trenkers own South Tyrolean background, the film enshri nes the sanctity of the Heimat praises the war and the military defense of home soil, and glorif ies the exceptional, heroic individual. Berge in Flammen weaves together Heimatliebe and heroism in such a way that the landscape becomes a political realm and the mountaineer a political figure. The village and the mountains form the backdrop for an affirmation of the image of a noble war. Florian Dimai, the mountain guide, di stinguishes himself as a hero among his fellow soldiers and villagers. While the concept of Heimat lies at the center of Berge in Flammen the 86


community retreats into the background while the hero acts independently to ultim ately rescue his home. Berge in Flammen portrays a noble war. The film evokes the unique isolation and environmental challenges of the war on the Alpine front, emphasizing the contrast between South Tyrol and the major fronts of World War I. This contrast is further developed by the Austrian soldiers repeated assertions that they are defending their home. The soldiers are thus convinced of the relevance of their actions; their village is visible from the mountain, reinforcing the immediate significance of their defense. Although the soldiers are cut off from thei r families in the villa ge because of mail censorship, the isolation is mitigated through th eir proximity to their home. On a patrol, Dimai and a comrade steal away from the group and look down at the village through binoculars. The comrade is shot in the head by an Italian sn iper as the men lay peering into the valley, reinforcing both the immediacy of the threat to their home and the hostility of the Italians (Fig. 4.7). While Au strian soldiers do die in the film, the prevailing spirit among the troops is positive. The men are portrayed singing together in the barracks and supporting each other in ha rdships (Fig. 4.8). There is a sense of hopefulness and comradery apparent in all the Austrians interacti ons; the war remains a constant threat in the background, but the challenges it presents appear surmountable with the incentive of protecting home soil underlying the mens actions. The films depiction of the front thus forms a counter point to the popular portrayals of the horror and senselessness of war current in Germ any after 1918. With German society still reeling in the afterm ath of World War I, Berge in Flammen defended the image of a 87


noble cause and the brave, patriotic soldier. Trenker saw the film as a response to Lewis Milestones adaptation of All Quiet on the Western Front (Rapp 160). The reality of defending the home imbues the war with undeni able meaning, and the soldier necessarily reassumes his role as a patriotic hero rath er than a victim of societal forces. The mountains become the realm in which patr iotism is revalidated; the Alpine front represents the reconciliati on of war and moral action. Florian Dimai represents a conflation of the images of the mountaineer and the war hero. His bravery and skill as a soldier on Collalto are to be interpreted as natural outgrowths of his background as a mountain guide. Dimai is introduced at the beginning of the film in the context of his role as a mountain guide leading his less-able friend Franchini on a tour. During the war, Dimai clearly feels at home on the mountain and displays more survival acumen than other soldiers. As discusse d in chapter two, the affinities between mountaineers and soldiers were emphasized with the advent of World War I. The character of Florian Dimai embodies the ideal Alpinist sold ier; as a result of his peacetime mountain climbing, he finds himself well prepared for the war and able to effectively defend his home. The films portray al of the comradery among the troops also reflects soldiers accounts of th e war on the Alpine front. In hi s discussion of the Alpine front, Tait Keller indicates that relationships between soldiers and across ranks were generally strong and positive. Ke ller attributes this solidar ity to the large proportion of Tyrolean militia soldiers and the underlying spirit of defending home soil (The Mountains Roar 259). Regional identity plays a prominent role in Berge in Flammen (as in some of Trenkers other films), whereas it retreats into the background of the other mountain films. The story of the Collalt o and Florian Dimai represents a unique 88


conf luence of events and skills; strong Tyro lean identity, mountaineering skill, and the opportunity to militarily defend his home villa ge combine to make Dimai ideally suited for heroism. National and regional identi ty figures prominently in Berge in Flammen as well as Trenkers later film Der Verlorene Sohn which I will discuss briefly for comparison purposes.1 Trenker was himself a native of South Tyrol, born in 1892 in what was then Austria-Hungary. He joined the Nazi party in 1940, leaving South Tyrol to side with Germany in the final years of the war, but he ultimately returned to his home region and died in Bozen in 1990 (Rapp 248-9). Both Berge in Flammen and Der Verlorene Sohn are heavily saturated with imagery of Tyro lean culture and the protagonists native villages assume a significance in the films comp arable to the Santo or Piz Pal in Fancks films. During the farewell scene in Berge in Flammen where the men prepare to leave and then march out of the village to report for military duty, characters appear in their traditional garb, Tyrolean dialect is hear d, and, as the men walk down the road, the camera captures them from a high vantage poin t, framing them in the mountain landscape while brass music plays (F igs. 4.9 and 4.10). Similarly, Der Verlorene Sohn opens with the protagonist, Tonio, sitting with his sweethe art, Barbl, both traditionally dressed, in the mountains. Tonio is subsequently shown participating in a logging operation and plowing, both forms of manual, land-bound work. Th e villages ritual winter play forms a 1 Tonio Feuersinger is a young man poised to assume a ll the responsibilities and honors of full adulthood in his village. However, he is fascinated by the outs ide world, taking geography lessons from a village teacher, and chooses to travel to New York City af ter meeting a wealthy Amer ican who travels to the village with his daughter. Tonio arrives in New York and, unable to find work, ends up homeless. Through a stroke of luck, he is reconnected with the American and his daughter, who falls in love with him and asks him to stay. In their apartment, he sees a replica of a mask from his villages ritual winter play and chooses instead to return home to assume hi s rightful place in the community. 89


motif throughout the film which represents T onios identification wi th his hom e and his rightful place as a future community elde r. Both Tonio and Dimai are intricately connected with their homes. Their love for th eir native villages inspires Tonio to reject the allures of the big city and Dimai to offer his life in military service. They demonstrate unconditional devotion to their homes; it is unimaginable that anything could entice either character away from his village by th e films ends. Their ordeals represent the process by which the individual revalidates his commitment to his home and thus constitute ideal models for a nation rebuilding its dignity. Berge in Flammen represents the passion which can be brought to defending ones country. Der Verlorene Sohn evokes anti-urbanist sentiments and corroborates the valuation of the rural and traditional over the urban and modern. Though Trenker imprin ts his stubbornly i ndependent Tyrolean identity on his films and resists the amalgamation of his regional identity with a larger German national identity, these films represent the intensity of nationalistic fervor within the contemporary alpinist community and right-wing political movements. In Berge in Flammen Florian Dimai is completely unique in his heroism. No other character approximates his bravery a nd willingness to undertake dangerous tasks. As a result, Dimai ultimately shoulders sole responsibility for the risky reconnaissance mission down the mountain (Fig. 4.11). In succee ding and thwarting the Italians efforts, Dimai becomes the sole hero responsible fo r the continued well-b eing of the Austrian soldiers and villagers. It is striking that a film that draws so much on images of culture and place does not emphasize the human signifi cance of community but locates the glory of success and heroism on an individual. Dimai is exceptional in the good will he brings 90


to his occup ations, but, in terms of skill, he only truly excels as a mountaineer. The films opening scene, where Dimai climbs easily over the rock face while Franchini struggles and lags behind, represents this talent. The scenes preceding the soldiers departure from the village establish Dimai as a kind and sympathetic figure, grounded in the home and village life as demonstrated by shots of him with his wife and tending their animals. As a soldier, Dimais successes come from his exceptional bravery. He does not appear arrogant, but in both social and fighting situa tions he positions himself at the center of activity. In one scene, all the soldiers are gathered around listening to several men play music. Dimai, smiling broadly and generously, sings the lead voice. In another scene, Dimai is the first to volunteer for a risky reconnaissance mission, stepping forward from the group of reluctant troops. No other sold ier rivals him for prominence and importance within the group; indeed, Dimai is one of the few decorated soldiers. Florian Dimai embodies the rescue of his community; his unique combination of mountaineering skill and exceptional bravery enable him and only him to take th e decisive steps to defeat the Italians plan and secure continued Austrian safety. As the films unequivocal hero, Dimai re presents the only way to the defense of the village and its way of life. The continua tion of his village comes to depend on him. Accordingly, his efforts as a soldier are im bued with a new level of significance; Dimais military performance not only demonstrates his patriotism, but also directly affects his home and heritage. Dimai becomes the defe nder of a culture. The village represents tradition: an old woman garbed in a conservativ e black dress sends the soldiers off with a blessing, men are shown coming in from the fi elds, the soldiers wives are portrayed as loving and loyal. The home is associated with these images of relationships and 91

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92 occupations. With a concrete concept of th e home, the fighting on the mountain assumes undeniable significance. Dimais bravery and skill enable him to defend his heritage. The image of the hero assumes nationalistic cultural significance. Berge in Flammen connects national identity or in the case of Tyrol, regi onal identity with images of bravery and virtue, thus connecting the image of the hero with the image of the defender of tradition and identity. Berge in Flammen attempts to restore honor to th e popular perception of war. The film establishes a synecdochical Heimat with the village; the v illage comes to symbolize the concepts of home and tr adition. With the Italians bei ng barely held at bay, the fighting on the mountaintop directly affects the security of the vill age below. With the potential consequences of failure so palpab le, the Austrian soldiers efforts are imbued with undeniable significance. Florian Dimai is a model villager, so ldier and mountaineer a thoroughly sympathetic protagonist. His bravery and mountaineering skill lead him to shoulder the ultimate responsibility for the well -being of his village. His successes in his dangerous reconnaissance missions protect his fello w soldiers as well as his family in the valley. By militarily defending the mountaintop, Dimai embraces his larger cultural role as protector of his village and heritage. The st rong presence of village identity in the film imbues Dimais efforts with a nationalistic significance; he saves not only people and a place, but the traditions a nd culture of his village. Berge in Flammen restores the connection between war and Heimat making the connection imme diate and palpable in the film and locating the heroic responsibil ity for the defense of the home in Florian Dimais character.

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Fig. 4.1 Florian Dimai before the war Fig. 4.2 Artur Franchini climbing with his friend Fig. 4.3 An Italian soldier boring out the tunnel under the peak Fig. 4.4 The Austrian tro ops listening to the boring operations Fig. 4.5 Pia begs Dimai not to return to the mountain Fig. 4.6 Franchini and Dimai reunite on the Collalto after the war 93

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Fig. 4.7 Tragedy on a reconnaissance mission Fig. 4.10 The Austrians march off through the valley towards the front Fig. 4.8 Comradery in the barracks on the Collalto Fig. 4.11 Dimai volunteering for the dangerous solo patrol Fig. 4.9 The men prepare to leave for the war Fig. 4.12 Symbols of religion add meaning to the war ef fort 94

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8. Conclusion The mountain film genre of the interw ar period constitutes a unique attempt at national self-definition in Germanys hist ory. The Alps represent a common meeting ground for the German-speaking nations and, du ring the period discussed in this thesis, the mountains symbolized strength, moral in tegrity, and the opportunity to restore the honor of the individual citizen and the nation. The mountain films imbued Alpinism with a set of underlying values which emphasized both the moral education of the individual and that individuals loyalty to nation and social order. Tr ansposed to the cinema, these values clearly resonated with contemporary audiences; the sheer number of films as well as the audiences and revenues they garner ed speaks for their popularity. The mountain films constructed images of Germanic identity which provided audiences with models of heroism distinctly lacking in German so ciety in the wake of World War I. Alpinism became a nationally conscious m ovement with the advent of World War I. Previously a pastime of the social elit e, Alpinisms participation in contemporary cultural discourses marked a tu rning point in its history. Fr om its origins, Alpinism consistently represented an id ealistic and educativ e practice; mountaineering was, in the eyes of its practitioners, both a physical and sp iritual challenge. It was also a construction of outsiders to the Alps. The lessons to be had through Alpine experiences required deliberate excursions from the demands of daily life and removal to foreign, novel settings. Alpinist education t hus represented special, privileged knowledge only available to a select few. These few those with the means and desire to go to the mountains and challenge themselves represented both a cl ass and a self-proclaimed spiritual and moral 95

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elite. Early 20th century Alpinists were extremely resi stant to increased visibility in the public realm and repeatedly expressed thei r concerns about the corruption of their practice. By engaging in nati onalistic and racist dialogues be ginning with its participation in World War I, the Alpine Association relinqui shed its claim to an elite class status and increasingly defined itself as a self-selecti ng elite based on common morals and values. The mountain films represented the first and most accessible large-scale extension of mountaineering into the gene ral public consciousness. The films thus had potential to effectively shape public percep tions of practices, values a nd norms among mountaineers. The films also came onto the screen during an era in which the German-Austrian Alpine Association first engaged in contemporary cultural discourses on national and racial identity. The films examined in this thesis e ngage with questions of cultural identity and the reclamation of a strong moral code. The alpinist movement of the early 20th century represented an outlet for frustrated urbanite s to cultivate meaning in their lives, and the mountain films reflected this process, making it accessible to a br oader segment of the population. The Alps, as a symbol of German identity, came to represent an unchanging traditional world, whose values could renew and strengthen sojourners in nature. The alpinist interpretation of the human relationship to the mountain grew directly from the movements roots in Romanticism, which im plied the purifying and strengthening forces inherent in the natural world. In the m ountain films, mountain nature is always represented as an ideal space, and the characte rs who live in closest attunement to it are the films heroes. The strong anti-u rban messages present in films like Der Heilige Berg and Das Blaue Licht reflect anti-modern sentiments cu rrent in German society. In this regard, the mountain films and the alpinist movement were ideologically aligned. 96

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97 The films examined in this thesis construct conflicting interpretations of German identity. Der Heilige Berg and Berge in Flammen portray, with wildly differing levels of explicitness, a strong, moral Germanic identity rooted in rural place. The heroes of these films are skilled and highly independent individuals with a deep loyalty to their Heimat be that the mountain itself or the alpine village. These films reflect an essentially positive interpretation of German identity, although th ey are thoroughly anti -urban. They locate German identity in the rural alpine setting. Das Blaue Licht reflects a similarly strong anti-urban sentiment in its portrayal of the Ge rman tourists, but it al so depicts the Italian villagers as essentially greedy a nd corrupt. The only character in Das Blaue Licht who remains ultimately sympathetic is the Italian Junta, whose strength lies in her attunement to nature. The film implies the degeneracy of the German tourist and Italian villager, holding up the innocent Naturkind as the last remnant of purity in a modernizing world. The mountain films as a genre represent a problematic adjustment to the realities of modern Germany. Political and economic in stability in the wake of the societal transformations effected by industrialization a nd a lost war inspired nostalgia for simpler times, and the mountain films represented an idealized nature world, with a strong moral framework and inspiring images of German identity. Anti-urban sentiments could be extreme, as in Der Heilige Berg and Das Blaue Licht ; this reflected the currency of alternative lifestyle movements, agrarian romanticism, and dialogues on degeneracy. A complex confluence of cultural currents played into the mountain films, which can only be considered as representative of the social ferment of the interwar period.

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Bibliography W orks Cited Berge in Flammen Dir. Luis Trenker and Karl Hartl. Perf. Luis Trenker, Lissy Arna, and Luigi Serventi. Les Films Marcel Vandal et Charles Delac, 1931. 101 Pixel, 2004. DVD. Bonjour, E. A Short History of Switzerland Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1952. Print. Das Blaue Licht Dir. Leni Riefenstahl. Perf. Leni Riefenstahl, Mathias Wiemann. Leni Riefenstahl Produktion, 1932. Pathfinder, 2006. DVD. Der Heilige Berg Dir. Arnold Fanck. Perf. Leni Rief enstahl, Luis Trenker, and Ernst Petersen. Ufa, 1926. Kino on Video, 2003. DVD. Der Verlorene Sohn Dir. Luis Trenker. Perf. Luis Trenker and Maria Andergast. Ufa, 1934. International Historic Films, 1985. VHS. Die Weie Hlle vom Piz Pal Dir. Arnold Fanck. Perf. Leni Riefenstahl, Gustav Diessl, Ernst Petersen, Otto Spring, and Ernst Udet. Sokal-Film GmbH, 1929. Kino on Video, 2005. DVD. Furst, Lilian. Romanticism Norfolk: Methuen & Co Ltd, 1969. Print. Gnther, Dagmar. Alpine Quergnge. Kulturgeschicht e des brgerlichen Alpinismus (1870 1930) Frankfurt am Main: Campus-Verlag, 1998. Print. Grupp, Peter. Faszination Berg. Die Gesc hichte des Alpinismus. Cologne: Bhlau, 2008. Print. 98

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