CreditsDirector/Writer: Folco Quilici
Catalog number # 459
60 minutes Color
Age Range: 15 to Adult
Closed Captions and Interactive Transcript
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February 24, 1905. The Simpion Tunnel. 19,769 meters of tunnel. Seven years and 80 days of work.
"Finally the last diaphragm fell and in the resulting opening the flame of a torch appeared, and then a man crying with joy"
Another victory over nature
Of light over darkness.
The epic theme of the "Excelsior Ball", the paranoiac travelling show which, in Italy alone, gave 102 performances in its first year.
The fight between obscurantism and civilization
The dancer the light . Science. Progress. Universal brotherhood.
and Alessandro Volta.
A single movement and the miracle is performed.
Male/ Electricity! (both voices together) Another triumph of science. The most spectacular. The most promising.
To relieve man from hard work.
To light up cities.
To move machinery, trains, engines
But is this really the path leading to happiness for mankind?
Some people think the exact opposite.
And they go back to seek protection in the reassuring womb of Mother Earth.
Palm trees, oak trees, chestnut trees.
A corner on Lake Maggiore, in Switzerland.
Near Ascona, Truth Mountain.
A strange mountain with a particular microclimate, almost tropical.
A group of people who don't identify themselves with the myth of urban and industrial civilization, have gathered here to live as closely as possible to the natural state.
Rousseau, India. The Upanishad
Searching for one's ego; for new kinds of relationship on which to base life in common.
Relationship between man and nature, man and divinity.
Between man and himself, through his body.
His every cell being in tune with the rhythm of the universe.
In contrast with frenetic town life.
Bathing in water, in the air, in the sun. Love, they maintain, is a bridge joining finite and infinite.
Also Isadora Duncan the American dancer of "free dance" came to stay in these deep forests.
To dis-intoxicate herself, she said, from modern life.
An account made by a witness:
'Out there, by the light of the moon, there were about sixty people, all naked, each dancing as he pleased, shedding what still survived in him of a previous painful life'.
The locals call these strange foreigners "balabiott". (naked dancers) They speak of nocturnal orgies. Of devilish rituals.
But dance, according to the group of Truth Mountain is like music and the fine arts, a therapy and a means to recompose their psychophysical - integrity which has dangerously split. Avant-garde artists try new ways of expression.
A musician draws scores where the notes are replaced by colors.
As Goethe did, and subsequently Steiner and Kandinsky, they study the intimate qualities, the psychological implications inherent in colors. A colony of homosexuals persecuted in the rest of Europe find an ideal refuge on Truth Mountain.
And there is an artist for them too: Elisar von Kupffer. Someone is planning a temple to be erected on the summit of the mountain. A gigantic phalanstery in Art Nouveau style, but never built.
The samples of art nouveau remaining in Canton Ticino are perhaps not outstanding but intact.
the theatre-variety show-cinema, dated 1909. Some sensational films from America: A sword duel between two women. Salome's dance, (note the marks super-impressed on the negative, the first recorded censure on film!)
From Italy an opera-like film.
"My love will not die" starring the divine Lyda Borelli, actress of silent films.
Sound tracks had not yet been invented and the scenes were accompanied by a piano.
Often by opera music: Mascagni, Leoncavallo, Puccini.
The first Italian color picture "The Statue".
A statue, miracle of love! that comes to life.
Turandot, the despotic ice-cold princess who charmed Giacomo Puccini.
Here in Viareggio, at the "Margherita" restaurant, his table.
Laid just as it was when the Maestro used to come from nearby Torre del Lago with his friends: composers, singers, libretto writers.
And lovers. Galileo Ghini, author of the stage scenes of Turandot, an Italian artist who had worked in the Far East, at the court of the King of Siam in Bangkok.
The oriental flare of the gilt in this scenography can be found again on the front of the entrance to Salsomaggiore thermal springs.
Fifty kilos of gold went into the decorations on the facade.
At the turn of the century 68% of Italians are farm laborers. They work hard, sometimes as hard as their animals. And their work earns an accumulation of wealth for the land-owners. Night has come / and the master is sighing / he says short has been the day / if short it was / what can I do ? / catch hold of the sun 7 and don't let it set.
In the low lands' of Emilia the first steam driven agricultural machinery appears.
The ancient ritual of corn threshing becomes mechanized.
The fertile soil brings wealth and comfort to the owners of land.
Mechanization - not counting strikes and social claims - saves time.
And so earns money.
And possibly a villa in Liberty style.
Oreste Ruggeri in the course of his travels has fallen in love with the new-style. And he commissions this delightful little villa to architect Broggi. "Live" nature.
Pictured, and remembered with regret
In the countryside around Modena: Villa San Donino. Italian Liberty in this case reflects - surprisingly - German secession. Two brothers from Modena, wealthy landowners, wanted it that way.
Secession living room.
Secession pillars. On the wall a water-color picture by Maiocca.
Dated 1901. The swing.
Summer holidays in the villa. Hot sunshine. Afternoons, shadowy half-light, lazy unfolding of the hours.
Guido Gozzano's poetry is liked best
"Handsome sad house, uninhabited!
Bulging gratings, worn, twisted!
Silence! Chain of dead rooms! Smell of shadow! Smell of the past!
Smell of desolate abandon
Defunct fables of the outside doors." Near Ferrara, villa Boccaccini. It was one of the masterpieces of this residential architecture.
Now abandoned, at; easy prey to vandals From Italy to Spain. Wheat fields Vineyards Sunshine
Mediterranean brightness. Its evocative and creative power. This is how Antoni Gaudi y Cornet greets us. With his complex, outstanding individuality.
His decoration explodes and expands over the bare walls of the cathedral at Palma de Majorca, like a plant from strong roots. The wide spaces of the grandiose Catalan gothic architecture
Gaudi's creative imagination takes shape in unique solutions. He feels no reverential awe for the immense gothic structure.
The baldachin placed over the High Altar is a great theatrical scene.
Antoni Gaudi possesses a creative capacity of magic evocation, suspended between real and unreal.
Only a few essential impulses of his are revealed, out of all the secret complexities of his mind
a deep, almost obsessive religious feeling
and the influence of the new European art, it's freedom of lines.
In this extraordinary building of his, the light inside changes shade and color completely according to the hour of day ... it's Palacio Guell, in Barcelona.
The main city of Catalonia, at the turn of the century is a culturally active place, open to Europe with an enterprising and strongly nationalistic bourgeoisie. It is the Catalan nationalism... heir to the noble Islamic middle ages . Eusebio Guell is a representative of that nationalism, of that culture.
It's not a chance, therefore, if he is the patron of Gaudi's most daring projects. Everything in this house is Gaudi's work. He worked on it until 1889. Even the organ, with its square pipes.
Donna Eulalia Guell's favourite.
graceful personification of this creative period of Catalan art.
Young Eulalia Guell
in this great family portrait.
recalled by different notes
by different lights
She herself, Eulalia, introduces us to another surprising work of Gaudi's Casa Battlo. Casa Battlo. In Gaudi's own words:
"Corners will disappear and matter will show in abundance in it's austral roundness: sunlight will pour through all four sides and it will be like the image of Paradise." The Mediterranean sun
at the center of spirals rising towards the infinite
"my palace will be brighter than light itself
The majolica tiles on the roof simulate the scales and vertebrae of a giant monster.
A dragon turned into stone. Sleeping. Resting on the house, as if to protect it. An impression of serenity on the facade. In the pattern of colors, in the movement of the unusual structures.
On the same Avenida Central, another building of his: La Pedrera. In bare stonework.
Pious, religious Gaudi defies the laws of nature. He bends and subdues to his imagination even the most inert materials.
He lives the sacred act of creation over again.
His 'bizarre' inventiveness flares in the wrought iron decorations.
Here is Gaudi at work.
He studies and defines every slightest detail.
He works with his own hands, as did the ancient builders of cathedrals.
The Mediterranean sunshine bursts forth in this iron gate.
And the monsters... Again the dragon figure on this railing around the Finca Guell. Finca in Catalan, means a country house with flower and kitchen gardens.
Flowers, plants, fruit, as in the gardens of the Hesperides. And to guard it all, the dragon
Jagged raised hackles Creatures half-way between nature and delirium to be kept hidden like secrets.
A railing against the sky.
The stars on the dragon's tail reflect exactly the setting of the constellation of the Dragon at the height of summer when fruit ripens. In Guell Park - which the patron had commissioned for the city of Barcelona -the monsters have a much more trustworthy air.
Playful. And finally Gaudi's unfinished masterpiece, the Sagrada Familia. The structure appears to represent the natural growth of a live organism, a critic has noted.
Like a plant. Or an animal.
An uncompromising determination to penetrate material, to bring out its interior ghosts.
Work still continues on the Sagrada Familia - it will probably go on for years on the lines of the drawings produced by Gaudi's boundless creativeness that no dragon has been able to restrain.
Part IV Reel II
The Atlantic Ocean and across the ocean the Americas, as they were then called. Mexico city. The Statue of the Angel, a donation by "Grande Epoque" Europe to Mexico.
This is Palacio de l'Arte, planned and built between 1900 and 1910 by the Italian architect Boari in collaboration with other European and North American colleagues.
Liberty style has crossed the ocean.
A sign of the internationalism of the times. And of the vitality of Art Nouveau. The ironwork, of extraordinarily expressive dynamics, is by Alessandro Mazzucchelli.
A Hungarian, Maruoti, has designed the dome.
These statues were made by a Spaniard, Quarol.
A sculptor from Turin, Leonardo Bistolfi, made the statues on the front, intentionally unfinished.
After Michelangelo's manner.
In this group photo there are all the artists who participated in the work.
Among them is the author of a most surprising piece of art, which we are about to see.
This huge curtain, the work of a most individual genius. It is made with stained glass, by an American: Louis Confort Tiffany, son of the well-known jeweler. It is moved by a gigantic machine devised by a German engineer from Cologne, Rosenberg.
Dawn day night sunset
An animated landscape which changes with the light projected onto it.
Cacti, mountains, volcanoes deserts sierras
The Mexican landscape, with its intense character, comes to life in Tiffany's iridescent glasswork. The reign of butterflies on one of the high Mexican sierras.
Butterflies and dragon flies. Of all shapes and colors.
Light, impalpable, changing
An inimitable paradise of color achieved by Tiffany by means of what he called "favrile-glass" technique, literally meaning "feverish glass". Tiffany studied the ancient techniques of Murano glass workers before producing his iridescent vases. "Sheaves of vibrating lines like barbules on a feather" says Paolo Portoghesi -"or shapes from the world under the sea".
Tiffany introduces full-cycle industrially produced art: from the raw material to the finished product.
Machinery, ovens, workers
Research work in laboratories. In I85O, out of 23 million Americans, 19 million live in the country.
Fifty years later, more than half live in cities.
In an overpopulated urban environment, impersonal, with people elbowing for success, Tiffany's stained-glass work recalls a nostalgic and distant paradise
But not so very distant
Chicago, in the Mid-west. In I87I a great fire ravaged the town.
Reconstruction made room for an interesting architectural movement.
Louis Henri Sullivan is one of the promoters. The ornamentation, in some cases confined to a few key-areas of the buildings, explodes in a pattern of exuberant forms, mainly of plants.
As the wrought iron decoration of the famous Carson Stores, Pirie & Scott.
Sullivan used to say:
"Man once invented composition. But nature is forever producing new forms of life."
Sullivan again has produced the masterpiece of Art Nouveau in the United States. It is the Getty family tomb in the cemetery outside Chicago.
America of oil dynasties, great businessmen... Busy making their country the richest one in the world. The first oil well - Pennsylvania, 1859. During the first decade following the Civil War, the number of industries increases by 80%.
It's the America of pioneers, the West, the New Frontier.
America is young, proud and confident, mirrored in Walt Whitman's poems:
Literal translation of the quotation from Walt Whitman. All our past we leave behind us,
we come up into a newer, more powerful,
more varied world,
fresh and strong the world we assert,
a world of work and walking.
Pioneers, o pioneers! This was the town of Jerome, one of many.
A pale, humble sign of the new style a barely perceptible echo of a rich, multiform, daring artistic movement.
A new era, in which distances have shrunk and time has shortened
and ideas - the same as human beings -travel on railway tracks.
A railroad across the United States.
A railroad across India
Through dark jungles
of Kipling's novels
And of colonialism.
The riches of European industrial countries stem from the raw materials imported from the colonies.
India, a colony of Her Majesty the Queen of England.
"A nation is like an individual: it has duties to perform, and we can no longer renounce our duties towards the many populations committed to our guardianship.
It is our domination alone that can assure peace, safety and wealth to so many unfortunate people who have never known these benefits."
of castes and of modern and luxurious trains for the Maharajas. The second railway network in the world.
India of Maharajas, of durbar, grand receptions in honor of Her Majesty's Governor.
Special carriages, precious wood, brass work
Bearing their coat of arms.
The Maharaja of Jodhpur. The Maharaja of Amedabad.
Of Udaipur. And of Ha labad Their carriages are still in use in present-day India - as an attraction for wealthy tourists.
Europe, rich and refined, of scientific progress, of railways, of steel industry.
Europe plunders raw materials and exports the exquisiteness of Art Nouveau together with the myth of western civilization.
The confidence that the balance of power among European nations is a guarantee for everyone's safety.
A world divided into areas of influence.
The world has grown smaller, closer at hand.
Steam boats replace obsolete sail ships.
Since its opening in 1869 the Suez Canal has drastically cut the journey to the Far East.
The French built the canal but the English, with a clever political move, have seized Egypt.
The International Suez Canal Co. is in their hands.
Under the minarets there rise the "compounds", entire districts of offices, domestic residences and club houses, all for company staff.
Once more in Art Nouveau style. The prevailing theme is the lotus flower, the same as in ancient Egyptian monuments at Luxor, Thebes, Karnak and in Cairo Museum. For its favorable climate and the fascination of its antiquities Egypt becomes the first destination of organized travel. Government officials, archaeologists attracted by the Valley of Temples, diplomats, tourists. High class customers for the grand hotels.
Sumptuous but still-life greenery. Staircases, decorations, glass panels, ironwork. Art Nouveau, in short.
A refined and light network of patterns separates and avoids close contact with the local life outside. Exotic atmosphere and comfort. Contact, and inoculation charts.
Two humanities: "ourselves" and the others
October 5, 1911- The Italian-Turkish war. Italians sing "Tripoli, land of love"
For the first time the airplane is used as an instrument of death.
Italy won an easy victory over that distant province of the crumbling Ottoman Empire.
Talking about war was like a game, but war really came. Like a sudden summer fire over a field of stubble.
Devastating. 65 million men fighting, over 6 million dead, between 1914 and 1918. Italy enters the war in May, 1915, riding the wave of D'Annunzio's rhetoric. 'Comrades I shall boast of these crimes'
I shall take them upon myself alone I
Persuaded that they were fighting for a just cause, many volunteered.
It was going to be the war to end all wars, they thought.
Among them, many artists. Howitzers, mortars.
Trenches, barbed wire.
(Yperite, from Ypres where it was first used in 1917) Fire barrage. Sinister new words. The historian Paul Fussel says:
"We are all on this side, the enemy on the other. We are individuals with a name and identity, the enemy is just a collective entity. We are visible, the enemy is invisible. We are normal, the enemy is grotesque. "
(The huge painting "The horrors of war" by Gaetano Previati)
Everything that science had invented during the brief and happy Belle Epoque revolts against man.
Electric light, that had first shone bright in the cities, now is used to discover the enemy beyond trenches and barbed wire.
To spread death even in the night.
Telephone is used to impart orders.
Air ships and airplanes are used as warfaring means.
Beneath their wings, no longer flowers (as we saw in the early rallies) but bombs.
Here is a rare old film showing a fight between Italian and Austrian aircraft.
Another invention, the cinema, can be used to record tragedies such as this: The Viribus Unitis sinks taking thousands of men down with her.
In a few seconds.
Technology has produced submarines, a highly treacherous weapon.
Yet another invention that was originally intended only for amusement, cartoons, is soon used as a means of propaganda.
It is in pure Liberty style that an illustrator pictures the sinking of the Lusitania liner. Such images will convince citizens of the United States, a nation as yet holding back from the conflict, of the necessity to join the war. And the Belle Epoque is shipwrecked in the war.
Just like this ship symbolically represents.
Perhaps it was a cruising ship.
Perhaps it carried carefree passengers
And later troops towards the horror of battlefields. The Grande Epoque, the same as this shipwrecked vessel, has become part of our collective memory.
Unexpectedly the sea has preserved the signs of that time.
The female figure, the source of inspiration for Art Nouveau, is here bewitching siren still sending alluring messages to modern, disenchanted Ulysses. On the Genoa - Constantinople line
the lights shine through the windows of the great party lounge.
The Captain is wearing high uniform
May I have this dance?
Evening dresses gallantry
jewels and smiles promises.
The seaweed undulates with memories.
In a forest on the borderline between France and Germany, a cafe-chantant: it was called "Bel Air".
Its stained glass work, unequivocally liberty.
Here people danced, drank, played cards.
Confident in the future. Then the war comes this way in 1918. The dream is shattered under the shots from German and French guns.
"La Grande Epoque". But time - which sometimes rejects the reasons of history - has retraced its steps and fixed these images. And returns them with the freshness of their time.
Images that from "Bel Air" send us back to a moment of joy and happiness.
of confidence in art and life
Of confidence in man.
A poet has written:
Une belle chose ne meurt pas sans purifier quelquechose A beautiful thing does not die without purifying something.
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