Where does the Earth touch the sky? Is the pointed mountain peak the entrance hall to its unknown depth? Crystal clear figures delineated by the stars glitter at the end of the long tunnel like an apparition. Or like a promise. A bit further down, among the centuries-old fir trees, is a mountain farm. Firmly fused with the kingdom of primeval, untouched Nature, stubbornly solitary and self-sufficient. Life in an Alpine valley seems senseless running about in the void, cut off the big source, the veins of Nature and its endless permutations. Winter is no longer a sordid mess of snow, summer no longer numbing humidity. The seasons glimmer in their endless cycle, in sprouting and growth, in sowing and harvest. Winter frost is no longer the emptiness of defeat, but a pause, a firm promise of the renewal of a cosmic circle. A pleasantly tired traveller knows this. A look towards the rocky peaks assures him that the solitary sky is almost within his reach.
The image of the sky above a mountain homestead is one of the fundamental archetypes of Alpine peoples. It seems that their entire emotional charge was condensed in a little heroine from the end of the 19th century, the yet unsurpassed invention of self-confident bourgeoisie – the legendary Heidi. The little queen of mountain landscape runs among the goats, gathers beautiful mountain flowers, somersaults down pastures, sleeps in the hay and watches the starry night just above the roof of Grandfather’s humble, but warm cottage. It almost seems that Heidi does not have earthly parents: she is the child of the immaculate mountain air, tame animals and heart-warming plants. A little Alpine queen, filling everything around her with sunshine, melts the cold armour of her lone grandfather, amuses her sick grandmother, and keeps company to the quiet shepherd Peter. And most importantly – with her innocence, gentleness and human warmness she wins over the rich townspeople who in Frankfurt, the artificial colossus, have forgotten about the power of primitive Nature. Heidi, the divine conductor, is a true miracle-maker! Her powers are firmly supported by Alpine medicaments: air, greenery, rocky faces, milk (in ample quantities, at every step), cheese, the murmur of ancient trees and many other effective props. A girl from town, Klara, lame until that moment, regains her ability to walk. And not just anywhere, but where the little healer has all the natural circumstances at her disposal in the most condensed form – on a mountain pasture. Heidi is a little generator of human warmth, which heats up the world surrounding her.
The myth about little Heidi, the patroness of a kind of Alpine Arcadia, has experienced countless adaptations and reflections, all of them intoned with a desire for natural innocence and candid human relations, which – in this kind of setting – are one of the consequences of the indestructible and miraculous mountain landscape. However, if the inventor of Heidi, Johanna Spyri, perceived her little heroine as a happy child of Alpine idyll, a picture of a similarly remote place from the second half of the 19th century can be completely different. In a masterpiece of the film world, The Inheritors, Austrian director Stefan Ruzowitzky depicts a split between the idyllic beauty of Alpine landscape and the local people surrounded by the dark angels of egomania and hatred. A mountain farm offers a new picture: the silence between people is not a gentle silence, but a deaf abyss between the souls surrounded by rocks. The master is not a mild and just patron of the herd, but a tyrant and rapist. Work in the fields and stables is not invigorating gymnastics, but a painful fight with uncaring Nature, a struggle for survival. There is no solidarity among the landowners, only fighting for land, fighting for power and control. What reigns is the law of domination; somebody has to give orders and commands. The inheritors – the hired hands, who unexpectedly inherit the land of the murdered master – fail, because they are unable to turn their former equality of slaves into a new hierarchy of the free: they don’t elect a new master. Masters can sit down at the table only with their equals; they have no use of a bunch of different opinions. The decision to liquidate the malign formation, a kind of commune disturbing the village calm, is just a matter of time. Pure mountain air suddenly smells of sticky human blood.
People in the valley still gaze wistfully at the peaks sensed behind the foggy screen of the city conglomerates. They still dream the happy dreams that once they would leave the concrete jungle and set off to Heidi’s Mountain, breed goats, produce milk and cheese, work a modest field, make fire in a good old stove, chisel wood. Abandon themselves completely to the charms of mountain landscape – the true, the untouched – and during long winter nights, when they don’t warm themselves at the stove, make friends with kind highlanders. So, the super-modern people are dreaming up a prettier, almost true possibility of their existence. The hollow solitude among the four walls of a sky-scraper, the empty looks of accidental passers-by, the wall of silence concealing the faces of their loved ones, everyday automatic gestures expressing nothing – all this will disappear. Or rather – surface in a new form filled with vitality. Solitude will become a holy encounter with the self, and at the same time a promise of a joyful meeting with others freed of the veil of strangeness. Everyday, routine actions will acquire a higher meaning, become part of the great ritual of Nature and its life-renewing laws. For a moment the TV set disappears, the dull walls shine with the lustre of ancient wood, the microwave emanates the warmth of a fireplace, a whiff of hay drifts in from somewhere, huge firs can be seen from the window, the roar of engines stops, the levitating capsule of space fills up with the murmur of the wind, rattling of branches and distant bleating of goats.
With elated imagination the Alpine town-dwellers invented Alpine iconography, because they were able to populate mountain ridges with their own mentality. The mountains responded kindly: they sent back their reflection – in a beautified, almost ideal form. Their introversion, introspection, diligence – everything was given a shiny aura. The danger that the ingrown characteristics of Alpine people might materialise in loneliness, coldness, reserve and pedantry is over. They appear as glory, an ode to oneself. Mountains, as always, will purify spirit and body, free them of the burden of sin and provide new strength. Heidi, too, always wanted to climb the highest peaks, the nesting places of lonely and noble birds of prey.