Friday, 8 August 2008

The Enormous Face

What part of the psyche does it rise from? A cast of thousands all doing exactly the same thing. It is disturbing, oddly moving in its symbolism, but military, military down to every crossed t and dotted i.

The dead who made a wrong move are already rotting in mass graves at the edges of the city, in plots that will be sealed off for a thousand years - or however long the Reich lasts.

Well, Riefenstahl of course. All Olympiads are her Olympiad. As for the display it is just as Cole Porter wrote:

Hitlers do it,
Stalins do it,
Even Kim-il-Jongs and Maos do it,
Let's do it,
Let us form an enormous polyhedron made out of six hundred people wearing folk costumes with neon buttons!

But at the same time it does catch you somewhere at the base of your belly. It can even bring tears to your eyes. Because it represents a yearning for the great collective that is the combination of all our efforts. Look: we! we microbes! we atoms! we mere specks in the dust of the universe! what extraordinary constructions we can produce when we move as one!

Now, if you would only be nice to each other, says mother, we could all build a model of the Eiffel Tower out of rice crispies! Think what you could do if you stopped squabbling for a moment, or, worse still, sulking and going off into a corner on your own.

Yes, but it is never the Eiffel Tower. It is nearly always one enormous face, like the face of Stalin, or of Mao, or of Dick Powell or Gene Kelly. It is a single vast head we have made.

And so nightmare and reverie merge. The fireworks go off and blaze over the entire city. The firestorm is entirely under control.


Mark Granier said...

"It is nearly always one enormous face, like the face of Stalin, or of Mao, or of Dick Powell or Gene Kelly. It is a single vast head we have made."

Or a slightly distorted Chinese-Lantern-Globe, rising out of Chinese soil and, presumably, sinking back into it (though I didn't stick around to watch).

George S said...

Yes, but take a big marker and draw some eyes on that...

I do feel there is something sinister about mass pattern making, that all such sublimation of individuals feeds into a comprehensive personality cult sooner or later. I think both Busby Berkeley and Leni Riefenstahl were geniuses, but prefer Berkeley because he had humour. And because sex - Berkeley's vision is, I think, primarily sexual and funny - is a more humane preoccupation than autocratic power politics.

Anonymous said...

Bird's Nest designer -- a brave man.

The Plump said...

This is why Mel Brooks' The Producers was such an act of comic genius. He combined them both, added a touch of surrealism and showed their inherent ridiculousness.

George S said...

Mel Brooks, absolutely.

The fact that it is ridiculous does not, however, make it any less gut-wrenchingly effective. It does correspond to some instinct in us. It is beautiful too, the effect at least. But disquieting.

I wonder whether lemmings ask themselves: I wonder what this looks like from the air?

Pretty good, says the God of the lemmings.

Not that the chorus at the Moulin Rouge are lemmings, not exactly.