The German mountain film (Bergfilm
) has received extensive critical attention for its political, social, and aesthetic implications, but has received remarkably little attention for its role in the environmental history of the Alps. This article considers the Bergfilm
within the long history of depictions of the Alps and the growth of Alpine tourism in order to ask how the role of media in environmental change shifts with the advent of film. The argument builds on Verena Winiwarter and Martin Knoll’s model of social-ecological interaction, Adrian Ivakhiv’s theoretical framework for the environmental implications of film, and Laura Frahm’s theories of filmic space. Through an analysis of Arnold Fanck’s films Der heilige Berg
[The Holy Mountain, Fanck 1926] and Der große Sprung
[The Great Leap, Fanck 1927], which are compared with Gustav Renker’s novel Heilige Berge
[Holy Mountains, Renker 1921] and set into the context of the environmental history of the Alpine regions where the films were shot, the author argues that film aesthetics serve as a creative catalyst for environmental change and infrastructure development. While some ecocinema scholars have argued that environmental films teach viewers new ideas or change modes of behavior, this analysis suggests that film aesthetics are most effective at accelerating processes of environmental change that are already underway.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.