The Trouble With Nature

What is the and relationship between humans and nature? Do humans master nature? These are the questions central to Danish director Illum Jacobi’s 2020 film The Trouble With Nature. Though based on the real historical figure, Romanticist philosopher Edmund Burke, the film is a fictional allegory––comically, it envisions an 18th-century story where Burke went into French Alps with his servant Awak to get inspiration for his famous book A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful. During their journey, prestigious, cultured, well-educated, well-dressed Burke looks down on and talks down to uncultured and shabby-looking Awak. She is “stupid,” and “superstitious.” However, he never stops demanding her to do everything for him. Burke grows jealous of her beautiful connection with nature because he fails to do so. To claim his domination over everything, he decides to climb on top of the snow peak in madness. From an analytical perspective, the film plays with the nature-culture dichotomy by establishing two characters who are symbolic of nature (Awak) and culture (Burke) and two parallel storylines. The fact that Awak and nature “win” over narcissitic Burke’s desire of mastery imply an ecofeminist perspective. What is femine and beautiful, is not weak and inferior; however, what is masculine and sublime, could be vicious and ugly at heart.

Third block – a brief overview of the main topics academic literature discusses. What kind of discourses is the object situated in? A brief analysis of the story / object? In short, why does this object connect to the idea of green media? 

In Western cultures, the feminine is considered inferior to the masculine whereas nature is considered inferior in the nature-culture dichotomy. This film intentionally constructs Burke and Awak as symbolization of culture and nature through their costumes and makeup. However, it also deconstructs this dualistic opposition by presenting two contrasting parallel storylines––”useless” Awak tunrs out to be spiritual and mindful, while Burke incompetent and mundane. It conveys a message: women are not powerless as you thought they’d be; sophistication doesn’t make a man. It aligns with ecofeminist perspective: ecofeminism wants to restore a good relationship between humans and non-human nature by making us, us humans, not just women, realize our connections with the rest of the natural world. (Elizabeth Mayer, 1994)

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