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2016年8月23日 星期二

Chariots of Fire (烈火戰車)

"Chariots of Fire" is the name of the theme song of a British film of the same name written by one of my favourite composers in the genre of what I call "electronic music" aka "fusion":  Vangelis Papathanassioum.  The 1981 film was nominated for 7 Oscars and won 4, including the "Best Film", (director: David Puttnam)  "Best Screen play writing" (Colin Welland) and the "Best original score". (Vangelis)

The title "Chariots of Fire" originally came from one of William Blake's poems, called "And Did those feet in Ancient Time":


And Did those feet in Ancient Time"
Walk upon England's mountains green:
    And was the holy Lamb of God,
    On England's pleasant pastures seen!

    And did the Countenance Divine,
    Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
    And was Jerusalem builded here,
    Among these dark Satanic Mills?

    Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
    Bring me my Arrows of desire:
    Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
    Bring me my Chariot of fire!

    I will not cease from Mental Fight,
    Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
    Till we have built Jerusalem,
    In England's green & pleasant Land


It was one of Blake's religious poems in which this author of the "Songs of Innocence" and "Songs of Experience" longed for the day of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, the day when the Kingdom of God shall once again be established among the dark Satanic mills of his beloved England,  upon its pleasant green pastures.

The film was about the curious friendship which sprang up between two Cambridge athletes who both competed against each other and against other athletes in the 1924 Olympic in Paris. One was Eric Liddell, a devout Scot who later went to China as a Christian missionary and eventually died there during the WWII and who felt an exquisite pleasure when his feet did duty for what he thought of as "the glory of God". For God, he refused to run on a Sunday. The other was Harold Abrahams an ambitious English Jew who prized personal excellence above everything else and who ran so that he might triumph over that subtle racial prejudice he felt amongst the ranks of upper class England at the time: Anti-Semitism. For both, the Olympics meant not just personal glory but something much greater: the glory of God in one case and a battle for equality against racial prejudice in the other. It was a great film. But a great deal of the credit for the film must go to the film score by Vangelis, a score brimming with a curious blend of grim resolution, an insistent and unbeatable optimism and hope against a certain fatalism. 

The 2016 Olympics has just ended amidst complaints about the incompetence of its Brazilian organizers regarding the accommodation of international athletes, scandals about two lying American swimming champions falsely alleging a non-existent "robbery" and  traditional Brazilian festive dancing.    

The curtains are down, so to speak. There's finality, until 2020 in Tokyo at least
The medal table is as follows:
                     Gold     Silver   Bronze  Overall

1.  USA          46        37        38        121   
   
2.  UK            27        23        17         67   
   
3.  China        26        18        26         70   
   
4.  Russia      19        18        19         56   
   
5.  Germany   17        10        15        42



Whatever may be the complex causes leading to such results,  it is well to remember that the Olympics should never be merely a matter of national or individual glory. To me, the Olympics is all about the original Greek ideal of human excellence: a celebration of man's prowess not just of his body but a celebration of what the ancient Greeks thought of as the nobility of the human "soul", something we would now prefer to call the human "spirit", a spirit striving for excellence of the body but also of human solidarity because we all share a common fate, as members of the human species.  Let us hope that that will never be forgotten. Otherwise, the glory of the Olympics spirit will forever be tarnished.