Helene Bertha Amalie "Leni" Riefenstahl (August 22, 1902 - September 8, 2003) was a German dancer, actor, and film director widely noted for her aesthetics and advances in film technique. Her most famous works are documentary propaganda films for the German Nazi Party. Rejected by the film industry after World War II, she later pursued still photography and continued to make films of marine life.
" 1 Biography
o 1.1 Dancer and actor
o 1.2 Documentary filmmaker
" 2 World War II
" 3 After World War II
o 3.1 Post War Career, Legacy and Personal Life
" 4 Works
o 4.1 Actor
o 4.2 Director
o 4.3 Photographer
o 4.4 Author
" 5 Notes
" 6 Bibliographies
" 7 References
" 8 External links
Dancer and actor
Born in Berlin, Riefenstahl began her career as a self-styled and well-known interpretive dancer. In a 2002 interview, she said dancing was what made her truly happy. After injuring a knee, she attended a film about mountains and became fascinated with the possibilities of the medium. She went to the Alps for about a year and when she returned, confidentially approached Arnold Fanck, the director of the film she'd seen earlier, asking for a role in his next project. Riefenstahl went on to star in a number of Fanck's bergfilme, presenting herself as an athletic and adventurous young woman with suggestive appeal. Riefenstahl's career as an actor in silent films was prolific, and she became highly regarded by directors and publicly popular with German film-goers. When presented with the opportunity to direct Das Blaue Licht in 1932, she took it. Her main interest at first was in fictional films. Her last acting role before moving to directing was in the 1933 film SOS Eisberg (U.S. title SOS Iceberg); this film was released on DVD in the U.S. in November 2005.
Riefenstahl influenced how later movies were made with her innovative filming techniques (here shown during the production of Olympia)
She heard Adolf Hitler speak at a rally in 1932 and was mesmerized by his powers as a public speaker. Upon meeting Riefenstahl, Hitler, himself an artist, saw the chance to hire a visionary who could create the image of a strong, proud Wagnerian Germany radiating beauty, power, strength, and defiance, an image he could sell to the world. During a personal meeting he asked Riefenstahl to make a documentary and, in 1933, she directed the short film Der Sieg des Glaubens (Victory of Faith), an hour-long feature about the Nazi party rally at Nuremberg in 1933 (released on DVD in 2003). Reports vary as to whether she ever had a close relationship with Hitler but, impressed with her work, he then asked her to film the upcoming 1934 Party rally in Nuremberg. After initially turning down the project because she did not want to make "a prescribed film", Riefenstahl began making another film titled Tiefland. She hired Walter Ruttmann to direct it in her place. When she fell ill, Tiefland was cancelled. Upon her recovery, she reviewed Ruttmann's initial footage and found it to be terrible. She eventually relented to Hitler's pressure, and resumed her role as director of the film. She was given unlimited resources, camera crews, budget, complete artistic control and final cut of the film. Triumph of the Will was a documentary glorifying Hitler and widely regarded as one of the most effective pieces of propaganda ever produced. It is generally regarded as a masterful, epic, innovative work of documentary filmmaking. Because it was commissioned by the Nazi party and used as propaganda, however, critics have said it is nearly impossible to separate the subject from the artist behind it. Triumph of the Will was a rousing success in Europe, but widely banned in America.
Triumph of the Will won many international awards as a ground-breaking example of filmmaking. She went on to make a film about the German Wehrmacht, released in 1935 as Tag der Freiheit (Day of Freedom).
In 1936 Riefenstahl qualified as an athlete to represent Germany in cross-country skiing for the Olympics but decided to film the event instead. This material became Olympia, a film widely noted for its technical and aesthetic achievements. She was the first to put a camera on rails, a technique which is commonly called a tracking shot, used to film the crowds in the stadium as well as the movement of the runners in track and field events. Riefenstahl's achievements in the making of Olympia have proved to be a major influence in modern sports photography. Still today her influence is seen in government "photo ops", major movies, television, and advertisement.
World War II
A picture of a massacre of Jews captured, with documentary clarity, by Leni Riefenstahl's film crew
During the Invasion of Poland Leni Riefenstahl accompanied German soldiers in Poland. On 28 September 1939 she was present in the town of Ko?skie during an execution of 30 civilians carried out in retaliation of an attack on German soldiers. According to witnesses when Leni tried to intervene a furious German officer held her at gun point and threatened to shoot her on the spot. There are close-up pictures showing a despaired Leni from that day. As a result of the events Leni left her work and immediately went to Berlin where using her personal influences she demanded an audience with Adolf Hitler. However, 5 October 1939 she was already back in occupied Poland and filming Hitler's victory parade in Warsaw.
After World War II
After World War II, she spent four years in a French detention camp. There were accusations she had used concentration camp inmates on her film sets, but those claims were not proven in court. Being unable to prove any culpable support of the Nazis, the court called her a sympathizer. In later interviews Riefenstahl maintained, with little success, that she was "fascinated" by the Nazis but politically na?ve and ignorant about the war crimes they committed.
In order to understand in a broader context the conclusions of the court, it's important to know that after the war, every German had to be "denazified". For that purpose, every person's case was examined and his or her connections with the Nazi regime were linked to a degree of connection, from 1 (for the war criminals like Hermann G?ring) to 5 (the latter meant completely innocent of any connection). Leni Riefenstahl belonged in group 4, not completely innocent but the lowest degree of relationship with the regime. Some other directors like Veit Harlan (who made the film Jud S?? (The Jew S?ss) in 1940) were considered as to belong in category 5.
The History Channel, on its sister channel, History International, released a documentary entitled, Hitler's Women: Leni Riefensthal. In it, the accusation is made that Riefenstahl wasacutely aware that her films were propaganda. They point to evidence such as the fact that Hitler had a sit-down discussion between Riefenstahl and Hitler's propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels at her personal German villa, as seen in this picture, to resolve differences the two were having which were causing strife in Hitler's early regime. Even more damning are the film clips of Riefenstahl dining with Goebbels and Himmler, and other top men of both the Brownshirt and SS branches of NSDAP, intercut with interviews with German historians