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Hans Castorp, fresh from university and about to become a civil engineer, comes to the Sanatorium Berghof in the Swiss Alps to visit his cousin Joachim, an army officer, who is recovering there from tuberculosis. Intending to remain at the Berghof for three weeks, Hans is gradually contaminated by the morbid atmosphere pervading the place. Wishing very much to be considered a patient like the others, he achieves his ends and stays in the sanatorium for ...seven years. During this time, he has enough time to take part in the furious philosophical debates pitting against each other Settembrini, a secular humanist, and Naphta, a totalitarian Jesuit. And to fall in love with the beautiful but enigmatic Clawdia Chauchat. When he is finally discharged in 1914 - along with all the other patients - it is only to plunge into the horrors of World War I. Written by
For me, the soul of the novel The Magic Mountain is the clash of ideas expressed in the incessant arguments between Settembrini (the champion of the enlightenment values of humanism, democracy, science) and Naphta (representing a hyper-ascetic belief in religion, war, revolution, social upheaval and the clash of God and the devil). Later in the book, Peeperkorn introduces a third view of man centered on, daresay, pagan values (emotionalism, naturalism, non-idealism and anti-intellectualism). Perhaps unavoidably, and to its detriment, the movie gives short shrift to all of these large ideas, and most lamentably, fails to capture the ferocity of the battles between Settembrini and Naphta over the soul of Hans Castorp. This makes unintelligible the climactic confrontation between the two pedagogues in the snowy field.
Dismayingly, the Peeperkorn of Mann's novel is completely unrecognizable in the movie character. In the book, he is a larger-than-life charismatic figure who draws the other residents into his circle by the elemental force of his personality. In the movie, he is a sad and fearful old man, who feigns defiance of death in several over-wrought scenes not found in the book.
The movie also completely neglects important subordinate themes, such as the lure of Eastern passivity symbolized by Hans' infatuation with Madam Chauchat and her "Kirghiz" (Asian) eyes and exemplified by the sense of timelessness he feels at the Berghof. (This is another topic on which Settembrini frequently lectures young Hans.)
I enjoyed seeing the Berghof scenes brought to life, but, overall, I did not feel this was a successful film adaptation of Mann's book.
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