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  Blue Light, The Crystal Carryings-on
Year: 1932
Director: Leni Riefenstahl, Béla Balázs
Stars: Leni Riefenstahl, Mathias Wieman, Beni Führer, Max Holzboer, Martha Mair, Franz Maldacea
Genre: Drama, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Two tourists to the Dolomites are curious about the tale of Junta (Leni Riefenstahl), so delve into the book telling her story. She was regarded as a witch by the residents of the nearby village, and they treated her with suspicion because she knew her way around the rocks when they did not. One day, a painter, Vigo (Mathias Weiman) arrived in the village looking for subjects to stimulate his artistic leanings. When he learned the story of Junta, he was immediately intrigued, but also wary when his guide pointed out the number of young men who had died attempting to follow in her footsteps on that deadly mountain face...

The Blue Light, or Das Blaue Licht as it was originally known, will forever be tainted by association with one of its biggest fans. He was a certain Adolf Hitler, who was so impressed that he asked its producer, co-director and star Leni Riefenstahl to direct an account of a 1934 Nazi rally, Triumph of the Will, now one of the most notorious propaganda items of all time. Riefenstahl always protested that while she may have made films for the Nazis, she was not a Nazi herself, so believe that if you like, but it does cast a pall over this film, which as a German mountain film was a big hit in its day (they did like their mountains).

It was also a pioneering work for being shot on location, and the scenery is as much a character as the people. But it's Mother Nature which The Blue Light is a tribute to, and Junta is the embodiment of that spirit, played in an inescapably self-aggrandising bit of casting by the co-director. Shot in gauzy closeups and showing off her long legs at every opportunity, she appears to be the centre of a vanity project, but really the landscape is subject to the same kind of misty-eyed sentiment as Junta is. Only the grumbling villagers disrupt the sense of paradise on Earth as they take to chasing the heroine should she turn up in their streets.

The Blue Light of the title is a mysterious phenomenon that only Junta knows the secret of, a glow that is seen at a certain time in the evening emanating from high in the mountains. Only she can reach it and the young men of the village have tried and failed to solve the enigma for themselves, paying for their curiosity with their lives. Vigo, however, thinks he knows better and under the spell of the woman, prevents the villagers from catching her and then makes friends with her. This means his betrayal of her later on is all the more baffling.

Of course, with the place in German cinema the film holds, you'll be trying to find any hints of fascism in the story to explain the appeal of it to the evil masterminds behind the Second World War. But all you get is an idealised version of nature's purity rather than any racial element, and Junta's outsider quality lends itself more to feeling victimised than the iron fist of the Nazi Party. In effect The Blue Light is a fable, a relating of a tale that might have more suited to some kind of medieval saint instead of the more modern (well, nineteenth century) setting it has here. Many of the images have a quasi-religious cast, and the tragic ending seems designed to leave one in a state of righteous indignation. If there's propaganda here, it's more in the service of Leni Riefenstahl than any ideology.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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