Holy Grail of Outer Space: Pluralism, Druidry, and the Religion of Cinema in The Sky Ship

  • Author(s): Thore Bjørnvig
  • When: 2012-10
  • Where: Source
  • The Danish silent movie Himmelskibet (in English, A Trip to Mars or The Sky Ship) premiered in 1918, and a novelization of the movie appeared in 1921. The film is about a trip to Mars and portrays a Martian civilization that embraces a life of peace, vegetarianism, and non-alcoholism. Both movie and novel, though especially the novel, provide insight into the plurality-of-worlds debate in Denmark in the early 20th century, forming as it did a part of a general debate about the relationship between science and religion. Yet The Sky Ship did not only form part of this debate but also displayed strong religious currents itself. Most notably, a romantic, Neo-Platonically inspired Christian version of Druidry informed the portrayal of the Martians and their society. Finally, the medium itself played a role in the story. By transcending language barriers, silent movies were imagined by some to be a kind of “Esperanto of the eye” that would usher in a new golden age for mankind, even contributing to ending the horrors of World War I. Thus, The Sky Ship offers insight into an intriguing conglomeration of pluralism, religion, and technology that should be of interest to historians of astrobiology.

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