Sverige på 1920-talet

The website of Swedish national television has an archive of historical film clips, among them a lovely collection of fashion shows and programs from the 1920's to the 1960's. That's what I call public service.

Journalfilmer från Småland i SVT:s arkiv! Se bl.a. när Värnamo blir stad 1920, köp grisen i säcken på Jönköpings marknad 1908, och bevittna ungdomens förfall på folkdansläger i Tranås 1925...

(från historia.ainurin.net)


Brideshead Revisited

I find it sad, but also somewhat amusing, that contemporary Hollywood producers are more conservative than British upperclass Catholic converts in the 1940's; compare the current film version of Brideshead Revisited with Evelyn Vaugh's novel from 1945.

In the original, Charles is fascinated by the aristocratic Marchmain family, especially the younger son Sebastian. In the movie, focus is shifted from their ambiguous relationship to a kind of triangle drama between Charles, Sebastian and the latter's sister Julia, who enters Charles' life much later in the novel. According to the producer, this was done because "the theme of love across a religious and aristocratic divide has contemporary relevance".

Poppycock, I say. It is threatening to mainstream Hollywood that a relationship between two men (regardless of the sexual content) could be of equal worth to a relationship between a man and a woman; the heterosexual romance has been elevated to the highest possible fulfillment of a plot (a relatively modern development; see Jonathan Ned Katz's brilliant The Invention of Heterosexuality).

The novelist himself, with a deeply religious message to boot, lets Charles state: "Charles's romantic affection for Sebastian is part due to the glitter of the new world Sebastian represents, part to the protective feeling of a strong towards a weak character, and part a foreshadowing of the love for Julia which is to be the consuming passion of his mature years." Thus, I see his view of love between men as rather pre-modern; an introduction to love, a rite of passage perhaps, but not the ultimate fulfillment. However, in contrast to the hegemonic narrative of modern Hollywood, heterosexual love does not bring this ultimate fulfillment either. Vaughn's goal is love divine, in the selfless act of forgiving and letting go, not in the selfish act of possessing another human being.

Even though I cannot call myself a theist, I don't think much of this current idolizing of romantic love as the magical cure of all evils; as anyone who is or has been in a relationship knows, dreaming of love is easy, living with it is hard work.

Luckily I discovered the ITV series from 1981 first, with a young Jeremy Irons as Charles. Just as you think it cannot possibly get any campier, enter Anthony! (I wish I could be there.)


From the LIFE photo archive

Google has made the incredible photo archives of LIFE magazine digitally available to the general public. Many of the photos have never been published before and include works by celebrities like Alfred Eisenstaedt, less-known photographers like Hugo Jaeger (colour photos of the Third Reich, a creepy experience), and unknown illustrators. Here are some of my favourites in no particular order, perhaps they give an impression of my main interests :)

Helsinki; in front, the Russian Orthodox church, in the back, the Lutheran Helsinki Cathedral. I bet the photographer chose this angle because of the "red scare" during the general strike in Finland in 1949. An anecdote about Ronald Reagan tells that the President during a visit in Helsinki quipped, "I can see Russia from here!"
Date taken: August 08, 1949 * Photographer: Mark Kauffman

Ella Fitzgerald at "Mr. Kelly's" nightclub in Chicago, 1958. Photographer: Yale Joel

Jesuit novices contemplating their breviaries at Los Gatos Novitiate a.k.a. Sacred Heart Novitiate, San Jose, California. There are many more beautiful photographs from their vineyards and the varied work of the novices by Margaret Bourke-White. Date taken: October 1953

Carl Mydans, who also documented the Winter War from the Finnish side, took beautiful colour photographs of Venetian life in the 1940's.

This is adorable. A man is combing his girlfriend's hair in Italy, 1963. The photograph Paul Schutzer clearly enjoyed documenting Italian masculinity since there are many charming photographs of men doing nice things like dancing, mountain-climbing, relaxing or just goofing around. It is nice to rest one's eyes on those pictures after an overdose of full-colour Nazi and Fascist parades...
Tragically, Paul Schutzer was killed while covering the Six-Day War.

From peace to war, and to yet another war: This photo was taken in Khe Sanh, Vietnam, by Larry Burrows in 1968. The American soldier under siege is gently holding a native puppy. I hope they both got away alive; the photographer himself died while covering the invasion of Laos in 1971, when the helicopter he was flying in was shot down by North Vietnamese forces.


Gotthard Günther

Was ist der Mechanismus, der den Schein produziert, der unser Denken immer wieder irritiert? und zwar in einer Art des Betrugs, der „unhintertreiblich“ ist, wie Kant wörtlich sagt. Der Schein entsteht, wenn ich über das Subjekt rede, denn ich kann nicht anders über das Subjekt reden, als dass ich es als Gegenstand nehme, das heißt, indem es Objekt für mich wird, und damit nicht mehr das ist, was es ist. Das Reden, Urteilen über ein Subjekt verkehrt es in sein Gegenteil. Selbst wenn ich diesen Schein für mich aufgedeckt habe, unterliege ich ihm weiter, kann nicht heraus aus ihm.

Claus Baldus, Gotthard Günther: Phaidros und das Segelflugzeug: Von der Architektonik der Vernunft zur technischen Utopie, Aus Gesprächen mit Gotthard Günther, aus: DAS ABENTEUER DER IDEEN, Architektur und Philosophie seit der industriellen Revolution, Internationale Bauausstellung Berlin 1987, S. 69-83