Rediscovering Romanticism

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Posted by HSG on June 12, 2005 at 01:17:06:

In Reply to: REAL men love women with curves posted by Emily on June 10, 2005 at 22:26:54:

"I am engaged in an honourable feud. You could thank God and parade yourself large before the world if you had ever in your life done a deed as noble as that for which I now sit here captive."
-Goethe, Götz von Berlichingen (1773).

The writer's choice of cinematic references is very interesting.

Ask yourself--what do period films such as Braveheart, Troy, and The Lord of the Rings have in common (apart from the fact that their leads are noble heroes, rather than simpering modern metrosexuals)?

1. These films adhere to aesthetic and moral values that are entirely unfashionable in the modern world, such as honour, chivalry, and nationalism.
2. They were extremely popular with the public--all bona fide box-office hits.

And what do other historical films such as King Arthur, Alexander and Kingdom of Heaven have in common?

1. They attempt to artificially impose modern political ethics on historical narratives, and rewrite the past according to contemporary sensibilities.
2. They were artistic and commercial failures.

Period pieces do not need to have their moral compass reoriented along modern political lines to be made "relevant" to a contemporary audience. Far from it. The best way to engage the imagination of a modern audience is to immerse them in the world-view of another time, to hold them spellbound by showing them the richness and vitality of an unmodern culture.

Some viewers even may go on to compare the greatness of those bygone eras with the culture poverty of our own day and age, and realize how much our society has lost, in its relentless drive towards modernity. They may subsequently consider ways in which that greatness might be recovered.

* * *

Incidentally, anyone who enjoys films such as Braveheart or Lord of the Rings, and is looking for something more fulfilling to read than the latest diet manual, is encouraged to try Goethe's magnificent play, Götz von Berlichingen. This historical drama, celebrating the life and exploits of a renowned German knight, is a stirring tale of valour, individual liberty, and passion, and just happens to be the work that single-handedly created continental Romanticism.

And in its depiction of the unshakable bond between the heroic Götz and his loyal wife Elizabeth, it offers one of literature's finest answers the article's significant questions: "What does it mean to be a man? A woman? And how can we live together in a way that affirms both?"

Melissa Masi embodying the beauty of a highborn damsel of a bygone era; for Kiyonna, Summer 2005:

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