Cinerama: Lost Horizon

Posted: September 11, 2009 in Cinerama

Lost Horizon

By Mike Derderian

It was 7.30 when I was in a car gazing at the endless horizon of Al Salt. A lot of things come to one’s mind while sitting in a moving car watching sunset. Thoughts, issues and daydreams, all started floating around in my head when one of the most beautiful scenes that I ever saw in my life came right before my eyes.

The sky was orange-red with a brush of yellow; a feast of nature finest colors. Amidst of it all, a cluster of clouds appeared like a giant mountain hiding behind a magnificent place; a place that you can only reach through your mind and imagination.

Light penetrated the clouds that filtered the sunbeams, thus turning the white color into a rosy pink with gray shadings. The scene was amazing, tempting me to step out of the car and rush for that mystical place that is hid deep in the heart of those clouds.

Yet at that moment, my mind was ahead of my body, and had already gone through a journey to that place beyond the ridges of those clouds. If only I was telepathic, I would have transmitted what I saw to you.

Stimulated by this scene, a word came to my mind. It was “Shangri la”, the mystical place believed to exist in the Himalayan Mountains hidden from the rest of the world, uncorrupted by the modern ideologies of the world. It’s a place where people coexist peacefully and morally. In a way “Shangri la” is the Asian equivalent for Sir Thomas More’s “Utopian” imaginary island where society is perfect in every aspect.

A lot of people wrote about this legendary place to a degree that if you ever want to praise a place for its beauty, serenity and peace, all you have to say is “Shangri la.”

This moment of fantasy came to an end once we reached our destination. Yet the daydream kept running through my mind all night.

The whole experience reminded me of the 1973 production “Lost Horizon” I watched a couple of years ago. Directed By Charles Jarrot and starring Peter Finsh, Liv Ullmann, Michael York, Bobby Van, Olivia Hussey, George Kennedy and Charles Boyer, the film is about Shangri la, based on James Hilton’s book.

The opening scene shows us European and American subjects evacuated from China that was undergoing a Civil war. The plane that is carrying the passengers crushes, and five people stumble upon an idyllic valley in the Himalayas called Shangri-La, where peace abounds and time has virtue.

Roaming the place, the survivors started wandering how such a place can ever exit; an a astonishing place filled with trees, fruits, gardens and spectacular architecture, not to mention the inhabitants who also seem just perfect.

Richard Conway (Finsh), one of the survivors, asks to meet the man in charge of this place. Father Bero (Charles Boyer), the man requested, come and started narrating the history of the place and how they have managed to stay hidden all these years, explaining how due to the healthy and peaceful atmosphere of Shangri la, people live more than 150 years and still look young.

Richard along with his brother George (York) ask father Bero when they can leave. Shockingly, Bero tells them that they can never leave because the secret of such a place cannot go out. And so they must stay there forever.

Some were satisfied with their lifetime stay. Sam Cornelius ( Kennedy) thought this is the place where he finally finds himself important,

Harry Lovett (Van) loves the people and most of all likes to teach the Himalayan children things that they have never heard of.

Catherine (Ullmann) loves the place for the peace it offers. She falls in love with Richard who also begins to like the place because of his feelings for Catherine. In a romantic prelude they sing a song entitled  “I might frighten her away.”

George (York), on the other hand, hates the place and wants to escape with Maria (Hussey) who’s been living there all her life. Their attempt has been successful. Richard tried to keep George from leaving, yet his efforts went astray. This brings in the tragic moment when Maria begins to grow old after leaving Shangri la and dies of extreme old age. It’s the price of leaving such an enchanting place.

In the end Shangri la is a state of mind. Everyone has his own interpretation of it. However, if you fail to find such a place on earth, all you have to do is search within the folds of your mind and you will definitely find it.

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