Sunday, 26 February 2017

IMMORTAL BELOVED (1994) reignites optimism for the future of the past

IMMORTAL BELOVED (1994)  is a great intro to a haunted, superhuman musician, and the disillusionment and hopelessness of Europe under Napoleon. It features career best performances from Gary Oldman & Isabella Rossellini and comes from noted horror film director Bernard Rose (CANDYMAN).

It's not perfect, it has a few ripe moments but is always entertaining and never dull. The presence of Barry Humphries as Austrian Chancellor Klemens von Metternich should be an indicator of how bonkers/fearless the movie is. Imagine Ken Russell's GOTHIC turned down to 11, with an even better soundtrack :-)

But the date it was released, 1994, is of more significance.

Immortal Beloved's musical climax is a German masterpiece for humanity, the 9th Symphony. This piece of music is used as the EU national anthem, and is hinted at in the movie when one scene cuts directly to a field of stars, highlighting whole plot as a story of painful but triumphant reconciliation.

 1994 might be seen as a peak period for the EU and reminder of the optimism of the time. It was the year Schengen Agreement started and the year before Srebrenica. The introduction of the Euro was five years away. It seems an aeon from from our new world of dangerously imbalanced Eurozones and what will doubtless be corporate Anglo-American trade areas.

Despite the events (so far) of 2017 the optimistic worldview of 1994 still inspires. Exposed so much to politics I've lost myself in music recently and it's hard to listen to 9th Symphony without thinking that the vision of international reconciliation and harmony IS inevitable over a long period. I'm also reading Neal Stephenson's Seveneves, which has a similar "we will overcome - together" optimistic worldview.

One of the supposed ongoing threats to the human race is the Emerging Virus. A biological time bomb, like Ebola, which waits for the encroachment of civilization to emerge and attack human society. They are dangerous but unlikely to be fatal to the human race as a whole. We can wait them out.

Perhaps the idea of the Emerging Virus could be applied outside the biological, and applied to ideas, religious and political. What if the political turmoils of 2017 are just virulent viruses exposed by expanding civilisation to the sunlight before they dry up and blow away?

It has been obvious for years that the last decades struggle with Muslim fundamentalism is a predictable clash between what are now excepted values of human rights and the final holdouts of medieval culture. What were impenetrable parts of the world  are now permeated by the internet, much to the frustration of those power structures which would seek to perpetuate them. To consider them a long term threat to our way of life is to give them way too much credit. Their desperate struggles to survive are, like the Populists I will get to in a moment, merely hastening the end of their own dead ideas.

Looked over a long term we can see the beginnings of the final death gasp of organised religion, and that the persistent image of religion going forward will not be the crescent or the cross but two burning towers. The horrors of ISIS and Boko Haram and the others might seem intimidating in the short term but these actions will resonate through the generations. The future vision of the human race, if there is one, won't come from a cave in Afghanistan, and the last spasms of ISIS and their ilk make this obvious even in our short term perspective. Over a long period we can perhaps see the War on Terror as an inevitable reaction to the remorseless sweep of modern civilization over the globe from the most reactionary areas. A doomed reaction as the death gasp only highlights the redundancy of the medieval ideas it seeks to protect.

I think we can just start to the same with what they are calling 'Popularism':  the forces of Trump, Farrage, Le Pen were always likely to crawl out from under a rock in reaction to some crisis but are clinging to a nationalism which cannot survive the end of this century.  Under pressure from environmental and economic factors the sums just do not work for isolationism going forward.

And, real decider of course, the glowing elephant in the room with regard to nationalism, is nuclear proliferation. Nationalism and atomic weapons are a fatal mix - certainly for Nationalism in the long term. In the same way that the Twin Towers will be the image to define and warn against the influence of religion going forward, Trump and his followers will fill history books about the fall of the nation state.

I would seek to preserve my culture and your culture as much as we possibly can, that is what keeps us human after all. But if the alternative is Radioactive Ruins and Cockroach Culture, the flags and the d**kheads who wave them will be gone before long, one way or another.

Arthur C Clarke was a good judge of the future events. In 3001: The Final Odyssey he predicts the end of the nation state at 2050 (see below).

I'm more conservative, I'll say 2060.

"3001: The Final Odyssey," (c) Copyright 1997 by Arthur C. Clarke

She was the first visitor with a fluent command of Poole's own
English, so he was delighted to meet her.
'Mr. Poole,' she began, in a very business-like voice, 'I've been
appointed your official guide and - let's say - mentor. My
qualifications - I've specialized in your period - my thesis was
"The Collapse of the Nation-State, 2000-50"

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