Friday, August 12, 2011

"Lost Horizon" (1937)

Every once in a while the fact that art reflects and illuminates our understanding of the world in which it was made is so clear it appears prophetic. Such is the case of Frank Capra’s “Lost Horizon” from 1937.

Based on the novel of the same name from earlier in the decade, it reflects the frustration and fatigue of a British diplomat faced with the world the way it was in the thirties. Less than two years after the film was released, the vivid descriptions of a self-destructive humanity would come to fruition.

This is not Capra’s best work by a long shot. For one thing it is far too naïve. The idea that true diplomacy would be to simply do away with armed forces and that the evil men of the world would come to their senses in the face of such trust and friendliness is downright silly in light of the events in Munich just a year later. Also, some of the ideas of utopia as understood by the (frankly) racist and sexist society that the Thirties produced are off the mark even by today’s standards let alone a truly good and “utopic” place such as Shangri-la is supposed to be.

That being said, what the world needs—and what Capra was really good at reminding us of—is a bit more naiveté. Or in any case, and ability to understand the world as it is and impose a good deal more innocence where we are able.

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