Tuesday, September 29, 2009

More film-related thoughts

The great revival of Hildegard von Bingen began when I was in my late teens. All of a sudden people of a certain spiritual bent (like me, at the time) began herb-growing, spelt-chewing and parting their hair in the middle, hoping to emulate a woman whom a certain type of feminist claimed as a medieval Alice Schwarzer. After all, didn't she found a quasi-lesbian commune and stand up to the patriarchal power of the church?

For fans with a more materialist mind-set (like me, too, at the time, though I wasn't aware of this as yet), Hildegard was above all a great dieting role model healer and epitome of alternative medicine. In those days before the Atkins diet, slimming was still associated with asceticism rather than gluttony and nut-roasts were all the rage. Small wonder that Hildegard cookbooks shot up like mushrooms. For a short while, German supermarkets sold packet soups based on Hildegard's recipes (the irony!) which I sometimes bought, being quite obsessed with my weight health myself (and a lousy cook at the same time).

Little did I know in them days that one day I would live where old Hildy had once haunted the happy hills above the Nahe river. Had I moved here then I might have gone the whole Hildegard hog and turned to dancing naked in the moonlight. Now that I've mellowed and read plenty of popular cognitive science, I've changed my mind about Hildegard. Today, I'm inclined to think that our local saint in all likelihood was either an annoyingly precocious brat, an egocentric nut case or an epileptic.

Whatever the cause of Hildegard's famous visions, they (or the artwork based on them) document that she was thoroughly indoctrinated by the medieval church's hatred of the body, sexuality and women. Here is Hildegard's version of the "vagina dentata" (complete with Arab strap):

I don't know whether Margarete von Trotta, she of the epic feminist biopic, is interested in her heroine's fearful frigidity in her Hildegard-movie Vision. And I probably won't ever know, because the trailer is too abysmal to invite the waste of 10 Euros or so (let alone two hours of precious life time) on the whole film:

What can I say? The movie has Heino Ferch in it (aka "The Actor Who Don't Look So Intelligent"), which is always a bad sign. I really think the German film board should introduce a Heino Ferch-rating, so that the discerning viewer can give products that feature the man a wide berth.

More promising, by contrast, is this grittily realistic piece of TV nostalgia, also set in and around here:

The touristy bit begins at around 9:07. In part 2 a body is fished out of the Rhine in what the voice-over claims to be Trechtingshausen, but which actually is the harbour in Bingen. Clearly visible in the background is the Niederwalddenkmal in Rüdesheim, which is directly opposite from Bingen, on the other side of the Rhine.

NB: You cannot see the Niederwalddenkmal from Trechtingshausen.

This not only proves that mundus vult decipi is a fundamental principle of film narrative. It also goes to show that Bingen has far more to offer than Hildegard and her biscuits - though some things might be better for tourism (and one's general health) than others.

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