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May 14, 2010

The Lost Horizon

Shangri-La is a popular name for Chinese, Indian and Tibetan restaurants all across the world. Although we all know that the name has more to do than just being a gastronomical experience.

James Hilton's 1933 novel, Lost Horizon is where the fictional utopia, Shangri-la came to life. Nestled deep in the Himalayas this exotic ideal world is hard to reach, but a British foreign service man, Robert Conway reaches there when his plane crashes in the Himalayas.

In 1937 Frank Capra adopted the novel into a film. The film's story differs from the novel in very important aspects, although if you just see the film it has all the details preserved to transfer the crux of the story to the viewer. It is a technically superior movie for something that was produced more than 75 years ago. Although the Himalayan scenes involving the plane, especially the one where the plane lands in the middle of a huge field, filled with marauding villagers looks authentic, Shangri-La itsel is set in a dated(!920s) landscape framing the wide vistas of early 20th century architecture.

The current print of the film is missing some scenes which are redone by voice-overs with still pictures. It is an interesting film to watch for those interested in older films and film history and maybe it has a story idea which is ripe for remake sometime in the future considering its metaphysical message and oriental setting (we lives in the times of crounching tiger and kung-fu panda.)