Monday, May 10, 2010

1930 - STURME UBER DEM MONT BLANC or Storm Over Mt Blanc

David Lean almost drown some of his cast shooting the big storm scene in Ryan's Daughter.  But when it came to putting actors in peril, Lean looked like a pussycat compared to what the director Arnold Fanck did to his cast in Sturme uber dem Mont Blanc.

Fanck is so intent on his vision of portraying heroic German men and women pitted against the forces of nature that he risked their lives at times to get the most spectacular mountain climbing photographic compositions that he could achieve.  

Once again future director Leni Riefenstahl stars for Fanck.  She's part of a love triangle between a scientist living on Mt. Blanc and a musician who are both infatuated with her.  The last third of the film has Leni trying to rescue the scientist who is slowing freezing to death on Mt. Blanc during a big storm  after losing his gloves.  The dramatic elements to the film are pretty weak and the love story is not really developed very well, but the film is really about Fanck demonstrating his skill capturing the beauty and danger of living and climbing on a mountain.  

Riefenstahl's has kind of an interesting character in a film that's pretty weak on character development.  When the film starts, she is shown in an observatory apparently working as some kind of astronomer.  She tells her leading man that she is not your stay at home and bake cookies for her husband type of woman.  Of course that all changes later and any attempt at her being an early feminist ends when the love triangle plot kicks in.

Arnold Fanck and his film team photographed some of the most incredible images of Mt. Blanc and the surrounding area that I have every seen.  Fanck had a very strong visual sense throughout the film   photographing landslides and snow storms in incredibly dramatic ways.  Even in the scenes in the observatory where Riefenstahl works, Fanck makes the telescope seem like a very powerful and forbidding instrument. 

If Franck had to risk the lives of a few actors and stuntmen in an avalanche or snowstorm, so be it.  The morale of the story seems to be, don't go outside in a snowstorm and lose your mittens.  

This film is a pretty impressive achievement in film making.

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