When the mountain rages, the villagers gather in the church. Now only prayer helps. In times of climate change, seeing huge glaciers with towering ice walls and avalanches that do not endanger the alpine massifs in the slightest triggers a double fright. About majestic nature and its violent destruction by man.
The eternal ice on the three-thousanders in Arnold Fanck’s and Georg Wilhelm Pabst’s early mountain film drama “The White Hell of Piz Palü” has largely melted.
The Piz Palü and the Morteratsch glacier in Graubünden have long shown more gray rock than sun-glistening white. And the small, romantic Diavolezza hut in the film is now a tourist highlight that can be easily reached by cable car.
So it is fitting that the Orchestra of Change – the climate protection initiative of musicians from the Berlin Staatskapelle and other German ensembles – is dedicating its tenth climate concert to the 1929 film. The proceeds will again benefit the environmental foundation NaturTon, which supports renaturation projects in Moldova and Madagascar. Due to Corona, the concert was postponed from last year to this spring.
“Gletscherwelten im Heizkraftwerk”: In the hall (good acoustics!) on Köpenicker Straße, Frank Strobel conducts the film music by Australian Ashley Irwin, which was created in 1998 for the restored original version of the silent film. A highly committed tour de force, cheered by the audience, it is a 133-minute non-stop soundtrack. The sheet metal is allowed to squeak every now and then.
Ashley’s music mixes traditional Hollywood drama with late-Romantic pathos and bolero rhythms, enriched with comical interludes, classic onomatopoeia such as harp tuners for the dripping icicles or trombone choirs for the mountain panorama and leitmotifs for the protagonists. The mountaineer Maria (Leni Riefenstahl) is joined by a lovely flute, her kind-hearted friend Hans (Ernst Petersen) is accompanied by the clarinet, while the horns are devoted to the confused soul of Johannes (Gustav Diessl), who has been with his lover since the death of his lover in a crevasse is traumatized.
A ménage à trois under life-threatening conditions: Jealousy is accompanied by a breakneck ascent of the north face. The three get into trouble, a careless group of students dies. Rescue approaches when sports pilot Ernst Udet, who initially dropped a bottle of champagne for the couple in the hut, marks their location for the rescue team from the village with vertical flights.
The nature shots are always more exciting than the conventional plot. Blizzards, mountain entrails in crevasses, glittering ridges, ice sculptures, seas of clouds rolling over the peaks: all real, no stunts, no studio tricks. The shooting must also have been life-threatening.
A word about Leni Riefenstahl, whose later role as a Nazi director is described as “uncomfortable” in Frank Strobel’s program text. In view of their Nazi Party Rally trilogy, their cinematic accompaniment of Hitler’s invasion of Poland and their employment of forced laborers in “Tiefland” an annoying trivializing word. Nothing against the re-release of the classic film, but the story doesn’t need to be glossed over for that. Knowing about Riefenstahl’s propaganda activities changes the view of the beautiful Maria.
Politics, art and morality cannot be neatly separated: The entanglement of enthusiasm for nature (and nature conservation) with National Socialist ideology is also worth considering today.