The Post-Apocalyptic Open-Pit Mines Are Alive With The Sound Of Music


Alright, so last night I made some wisecrack about a scene from Kevin Costner's 1997 film The Postman, where a mutant general pacifies his slave army by showing The Sound of Music on a floating theater on a lake at the bottom of an open-pit mine, might be a mashup of a couple of Robert Smithson's unrealized installations. Little did I know.

I rewatched the scene just now, and it's positively Smithsonian. I remembered some things incorrectly. [I hadn't seen the movie since Christmas Night, 1997, when I had a private screening--on what turned out to be opening night, whoops--at a desolate multiplex in Salt Lake City.] Like I'd forgotten how spectacular it is, really well-crafted and poetic, even, for what amounts to a single note in the film [hats off to cinematographer Stephen Windon and the wonderfully named production designer Ida Random].

And the slave soldier army isn't floating around, watching; they're perched on the tiers of the open pit mine; I got that mixed up with the harborside cinema scene in Cinema Paradiso: in The Postman, only the projectionist is floating, in his little booth that looks like the offspring of Smithson's Floating Island and his Partially Collapsed Shed.

I'd also forgotten completely about Dolph Lundgren. As the scene opens, and the ersatz movie theater is revealed, the screen first fills with explosions, the opening credits of Dolph Lundgren's Universal Soldier. But--unexpectedly!--the crowd of soldiers revolts and starts raining rocks down on the poor projectionist in his floating booth. He quickly changes the movie [beat] to The Sound of Music, and the mob is subdued.

In his Cinema Cavern, Smithson wanted to show only one film, Film On The Making [of] Cinema Cavern. But after a long day of killing in the mines, the "ultimate film-goers" in The Postman reject their own "making of" film, preferring instead the escapist fantasy of Julie Andrews, the singing, Nazi-thwarting nun.

Anyway, there are a bunch of tasty screencaps on flickr and after the jump. Enjoy.

previously: "truly 'underground' cinema"

The Postman Floating Cinema

The Postman Floating Cinema

The Postman: Now Showing: Dolph Lundgren's Universal Soldier

The Postman: floating cinema

The Postman: The Hills Are Alive

Since 2001 here at, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting that time.

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first published: August 4, 2008.

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