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We are all going to take different things away from this film, which will stick with us. Here's one: flowers are there to put in a vase. Or to give to a girl you are trying to woo. Or, if you are a performer, you can give your post-performance bouquet to a music journalist coming to interview you. You can also feed flowers to your horse, or look at them when you hike through the countryside. They make nice ornaments in a pretty girl's hair. But what do the flowers tell us? It is a question Mahler asks and then answers, in the second movement, titled 'What the flowers in the meadow tell me'. Enter Jason Starr's images of some very forward flowers in full bloom, and Catherine Keller's comment: 'Flowers tell us about this unexpected, unnecessary beauty that just takes us off our guard and bursts through our cynicism every year'.


Starr explains: 'Flowers are more than pretty little decorations but are a potent symbol of renewal and of grace, grace not in a conventionally religious sense but in the sense of -- whether or not we deserve it -- this beauty is in our world, and that's something to be celebrated. In a world where, increasingly, there are fewer things to celebrate as we confront our species' destructiveness, it is inspirational and refreshing to be reminded, through Mahler's art, that there are greater ideals in the world and more powerful forces to open up to.'

Considering that Starr has also made films for National Geographic, I shall leave it up to you to imagine just what splendid nature shots, taken in the Austrian Alps, he provides to go with this segment.

A still frame of the posthorn player. Photo © Video Arts International
A still frame of the posthorn player. Photo © Video Arts International

Another excerpt: We all know, or at least most of us know, that terribly oppressive time when we struggle under the heavy load of the loss of a loved one and the rest of the world does not seem to notice that our firmament has collapsed. People around us go on with their business as if nothing had happened. While someone we love may die in hospital, feeble and defenceless in their deliverance to machines that struggle to sustain life but cannot, some Royals may be celebrating their most joyful moment, live on television in the hospital waiting room, as they get married. This is also a situation that Mahler has addressed in his profound symphony, courtesy of a post-horn. Enter Jason Starr's wickedly moving image: try to stop yourself from plunging into the sorrow expressed in Mahler's post-horn solo, movement three, based on Lenau's poem Der Postillion. A passing coachman stops at a lonely graveyard on a lovely spring night to play a song for his comrade who lies buried there. If you could only watch one section from this film, it would have to be this one: thanks to Starr's magnificent talent as a director, we join the lone coachman on the hill and together with him look out over the magnificent Alps as the setting sun waves a final goodbye and bathes them in soft pink colours. When one of us dies, we learn in the script, then the song goes on for the rest of us, but the individual loss counts to those around the person who has gone over Jordan [watch the post-horn sequence using the player below -- needs Apple Quicktime plugin -- high speed connection preferred].

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Copyright © 16 June 2004 Tess Crebbin, Germany


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