Sunday, September 30, 2007

Lost Horizon - The Meek Shall Inherit

Chronicles of Atlantis is about, ostensibly, "things worth fighting for." I mentioned elsewhere a film called "Excalibur" -- John Boorman's depiction of the heroic pagan tragedy. Its soundtrack leans heavily on Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana," a pagan paean if ever there were one. But I want to make the case that a finer film (in black and white, unlike the movie poster here), is Frank Capra’s LOST HORIZON (1937), based on James Hilton's book of the same title. Dimitri Tiomkin's musical score is an even finer evocative work, tinged with a note of loss, sadness, and "beyondness".

The High Llama of Shangri La invites Robert Conway, unhappy but patriotic British Foreign Secretary and visionary, to stay and lead the monastic-like order. Here is the High Llama's rationale:
It came to me in a vision long, long ago. I saw all the nations strengthening, not in wisdom, but in the vulgar passions and the will to destroy. I saw their machine power multiplying until a single weaponed man might match a whole army. I foresaw a time when man exalting in the technique of murder, would rage so hotly over the world, that every book, every treasure would be doomed to destruction. This vision was so vivid and so moving that I determined to gather together all things of beauty and culture that I could and preserve them here against the doom toward which the world is rushing. Look at the world today. Is there anything more pitiful? What madness there is! What blindness! What unintelligent leadership! A scurrying mass of bewildered humanity crashing headlong against each other, compelled by an orgy of greed and brutality. The time must come, my friend, when this orgy will spend itself, when brutality and the lust for power must perish by its own sword. Against that time is why I avoided death and am here and why you were brought here. For when that day comes, the world must begin to look for a new life. And it is our hope that they may find it here. For here, we shall be with their books and their music and a way of life based on one simple rule: Be kind. When that day comes, it is our hope that the brotherly love of Shangri-La will spread throughout the world. Yes, my son, when the strong have devoured each other, the Christian ethic may at last be fulfilled, and the meek shall inherit the Earth.
LOST HORIZON -- a far-away place of civilization for your DVD collection.

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