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Old 5th December 2005   #1
HSG
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Join Date: July 2005
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Default ''Along the Rhine''


In the past, we have occasionally juxtaposed the restoration of Classical femininity with the renewed appreciation of timeless beauty in other art forms, such as painting, literature, and architecture. In particular, we have discussed the growing admiration for the Europe's greatest historic landmarks--its castles, cathedrals, and national monuments, such as Burg Eltz, and the Cologne Cathedral.

Those of you who have enjoyed such analogies (and whose TVs pull in PBS stations), are in for a real television treat, this evening (Monday December 5th).

"Visions Of . . ." is a PBS series of hour-long programs that record stunning visual flyovers of different parts of the world. The programs are photographed via a steadicam mounted on a helicopter, and the results are smooth, fluid, bird's-eye views that provide an entirely different perspective on famous sights than that which one obtains from the ground.

Tonight's episode is Visions of Germany: The Rhine, and Burg Eltz and the Kölner Dom are only two of the many breathtaking sights that the episode will photograph in a way that none of us have ever seen before.

As the official program description puts it, this episode

follows the lyrical path of the Rhine River through Germany's southwestern region. Aerial footage, informative narration, and a local soundtrack including native sons Ludwig van Beethoven and Richard Wagner (and, if you listen closely, the siren song of the Lorelei) combine for an enchanting journey.

The river provides the perfect itinerary from Lake Constance to Cologne, with side trips to the Grimm Brothers' Black Forest, cosmopolitan Frankfurt, the rich wine region, historic Bonn, Heidelberg, the romantic string of castles like beads on a necklace at Koblenz, and more.

The soundtrack alone, then, is sufficient reason for watching the program. The link posted below offers a complete list of the sights that this episode will feature, but suffice it to say that it covers the most exciting, enchanting, and magical area of the Old World.

And linking them all together is mighty Father Rhine--Germany's main artery, through which pumps the life blood of the country, and which remains the spiritual origin-point of the entire nation (as Wagner depicts in his Rhine-based Ring cycle).

To offer just a little preview of the splendours that this program promises, here is a view of Burg Hohenzollern, which is perhaps Germany's most beautiful castle, a fairytale Neo-Gothic structure built on the peak that has belonged to the House of Hohenzollern (the ruling family of Prussia, and later, of united Germany) since time immemorial.

Its walls still house the royal crown of Prussia, and it remains the official residence of the Hohenzollern family.

And if you think, "That castle is fit for a princess," you are absolutely right--and real-life princess have inhabited it, throughout history. Here is an image of Prussia's beloved Princess Luise (later the Queen of Prussia), painted by Vigée-Lebrun. The femininity of her round facial features and soft figure forms a perfect compliment to the sublime Gothicism of Burg Hohenzollern:

(Note the style of her dress, which is not dissimilar to the feminine fashions that are so much in vogue, today.)

This castle is just one of the many wonders that this glorious program will feature. All told, Visions of Germany: Along the Rhine may contain the greatest concentration of timeless beauty that anyone can experience, in the course of a single hour.

In New York, and here in Southern Ontario (via the Buffalo PBS station), the program airs at 8:00 P.M., and repeats later in the week. In the rest of the country, as they say, "Check local listings."

* * *

It is easy to be cynical about PBS, and to note that the network offers programs related to European heritage, and to Western culture, during pledge drives (in order to attract paying subscribers), and that it churns out more politically-motivated programming during the rest of the year. This may well be the case.

Nevertheless, a program such as this marks one of the rare occasions during which the North American public is treated to a glimpse of the wonders of the Old World (or at least, as much of it as survived the war), and of the timeless beauty that mankind produced in ages during which different values than those which now govern Western society held sway.

Some viewers are sure to mourn for what has been lost, even as they rejoice in what still remains. And perhaps a few may even consider what could be done to make the creation of such beauty possible, once again . . .

- Click here to see a program list

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