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Remembering Leni Riefenstahl
(August 22, 1902–September 8, 2003)

782 words

German translation here

Helene Bertha Amalie “Leni” Riefenstahl was born on this day in Berlin in 1902. She died in Pöcking, Bavaria, on September 8, 2003, just after her 101st birthday. She was a highly accomplished dancer, actress, photographer, and film director. 

Even her most jaundiced critics admit that Leni Riefenstahl is the greatest female filmmaker of all time and/or the greatest documentary filmmaker of all time. But this is faint praise, since both fields are rather small.

In truth, Riefenstahl is one of history’s greatest film directors, period, because of her strong aesthetic sense and countless technical innovations, which account for her immense and enduring influence.

Her status as a director, moreover, rests on a very small body of work: two feature films, Das Blaue Licht (The Blue Light, 1934) and Tiefland (Lowlands, completed 1944, released 1954), and two documentaries: Triumph des Willens (Triumph of the Will, 1934) and Olympia (1938), released in two parts: Fest der Völker (Festival of Nations) and Fest der Schönheit (Festival of Beauty).

In addition, Riefenstahl made three other documentaries. Der Sieg des Glaubens (Victory of Faith, 1933, 64 minutes) was a documentary of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party’s 1933 Nuremberg Rally, which was withdrawn after the 1934 purge of Ernst Röhm, who featured prominently in the movie. The other two documentaries were relatively short: Tag der Freiheit: Unsere Wehrmacht (Day of Freedom: Our Armed Forces, 1935, 28 minutes), and Impressionen unter Wasser (Impressions Under Water, 2002, 45 minutes — hailed by one wag as “the world’s most beautiful screensaver”). These documentaries, however, have been seldom seen and have had little influence on Riefestahl’s reputation.

The fact that Riefenstahl’s stature as a filmmaker rests on only four films was not due to lack of effort on her part. After the Second World War, Riefenstahl tried repeatedly to launch new film projects, all of which came to naught, for one reason or another. But there is no question that an artist of Leni Riefenstahl’s talent would have made dozens of films in the 58 years she lived after World War II, if she had not been Adolf Hitler’s favorite director and if the Western movie business and media in general had not been dominated by Jews. The throttling of a talent this great is one of the aesthetic crimes of the 20th century.

It is a reminder that Jewish cultural hegemony is maintained not merely by promoting decadent artists, regardless of their talent, but by suppressing healthy ones, regardless of their talent. It is also a reminder that all other values of the Left-wing coalition — feminism, gay rights, environmentalism, etc. — are always subordinated when they conflict with the overriding Jewish agenda of degrading and destroying the white race, especially those connected in any way with its most self-conscious and militant defenders so far.

If you wish to begin exploring the life and work of Leni Riefenstahl, I recommend that you start with her own works:

  • Triumph of the Will (with Day of Freedom)
  • Olympia
  • Victory of Faith
  • The Blue Light
  • Tiefland
  • Leni Riefenstahl: A Memoir (fascinating and often disingenuous autobiography, which is generally corrected by the biographies listed below)
  • Leni Riefenstahl: Africa (photographs)

Riefenstahl also acts in the following classic films directed by Arnold Fanck:

  • The Holy Mountain (1926)
  • The White Hell of Pitz Palu (1929)
  • Storm Over Mont Blanc (1930)
  • S.O.S. Iceberg (1933)

Do not miss Derek Hawthorne’s extensive analyses of each film, linked below.

Riefenstahl also appears extensively in Ray Müller’s 1994 documentary The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl. The director includes candid footage, shot when Riefenstahl did not think she was being filmed. His intention was to make her look bad, but in truth she comes off as 100 times the director Müller is. It is required watching, despite the inevitable axe-grinding.

I also recommend the following articles on this website:

Finally, I wish to recommend several books on Riefenstahl:

  • Leni Riefenstahl: Five Lives. A Biography in Pictures (a magnificent coffee-table picture book)
  • Steven Bach, Leni: The Life and Work of Leni Riefenstahl (a tendentious but informative biography by an American Jew)
  • David B. Hinton, The Films of Leni Riefenstahl (informative and mostly fair-minded)
  • Rainer Rother, Leni Riefenstahl: The Seduction of Genius (informative but tendentious, useful as critique of her autobiography)
  • Jürgen Trimborn, Leni Riefenstahl: A Life (an informative but tendentious biography by a self-hating German)

 

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17 Comments

  1. Alexandra O.
    Posted August 22, 2020 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    I’ve always thought I’ve been lucky enough to have been born the same day as Dorothy Parker,
    on 8/22/1893, and me exactly 50 years later. And now I find Lena Riefenstahl, as well — 8/22/1902. And while looking up her bio on Wikipedia — I always go there to get an overview — I also found Claude Debussy, the wonderful French composer, is born this day as well. Now, I’ll spend happy hours this afternoon looking up Ms. Riefenstahl’s movies, Debussy’s fine short compositions online, and Dorothy Parker’s magnificent putdowns of arrogant Hollywood types of her day. I am truly in exalted company. Something as simple as sharing a cosmic birthday can lead you to new horizons of fun and intellectual inquiry.

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted August 22, 2020 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

      Happy Birthday, Alexandra.

    • Nova Rhodesia
      Posted August 22, 2020 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

      Happy Birthday.

    • Martin
      Posted August 23, 2020 at 12:49 am | Permalink

      Happy seventy seventh birthday, Alexandra! You sound to be of agile mind. I hope it was a happy one.

    • HamburgerToday
      Posted August 23, 2020 at 9:46 am | Permalink

      Happy Birthday!

    • Elenka
      Posted August 24, 2020 at 3:53 am | Permalink

      Happy belated birthday! Here’s to all us red-pilled old white ladies!

    • As I Said
      Posted August 26, 2020 at 2:21 am | Permalink

      Since my mother had the pain of giving birth to
      me, I see no reason to “celebrate” this day when
      I will also be one year older. It’s just a number.

      Whoever wants to give presents to others
      should not wait for a formal occasion.

      There are even said to be people who only visit their de-
      ceased relatives at the cemetery on “Totensonntag” or
      “Volkstrauertag”, although they could do so every day.

      • As I Said
        Posted August 26, 2020 at 2:32 am | Permalink

        People should celebrate their life every day. Most,
        however, look forward to the end of the day or the
        weekend. They don’t know how much they spoil
        their life time with it. Like the manager sitting at
        his desk dreaming of Hawaii. He is neither at his
        desk nor in Hawaii. One should reward oneself
        when one has achieved something for the good.

        • As I Said
          Posted August 26, 2020 at 2:41 am | Permalink

          People do it exactly the wrong way: During their marriage
          they only see shortcomings of each other, after death they
          moan about their “immense loss”. Instead, they should ap-
          preciate their strengths every day, after death they should
          consider all their disadvantages (“He snored every night”).

  2. Joe Gould
    Posted August 22, 2020 at 9:08 pm | Permalink
  3. Lord Shang
    Posted August 23, 2020 at 4:10 am | Permalink

    That’s a famous essay by Sontag. Well written, too, I must admit. Thanks for linking. Sontag was a nasty character overall, of course.

  4. Vehmgericht
    Posted August 24, 2020 at 3:05 am | Permalink

    It is fascinating to contrast the cool regal poise of the younger Riefenstahl with the repugnant flatulent clowning of contemporary actress and filmmaker Lena Dunham.

    Riefenstahl, having endured the excesses of the Weimar Republic, would not despair at the degeneracy of the present order, knowing that such dreck was once before swept away in einem Augenblick.

    Commemorations to Leni and all who held our Torch aloft. It shall be lit anew: the Future belongs to us!

  5. Walter
    Posted August 24, 2020 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    It’s amusingly interesting that a good part of the writings cited about Leni Riefenstahl are by authors who feel compelled to say nasty things, i.e., tendentious things, about her, yet are fascinated by her artistic genius, psychological accuity, strong personality and constant character.

  6. Posted August 24, 2020 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    ‘Triumph Of The Will’…Forever!

  7. dalai_lama_trapeze
    Posted August 24, 2020 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    I have a photo book called “Leni Riefenstahl: Five Lives,” edited by Angelika Taschen. Spans her entire career, from Dancer to Actress to Film Director (including the post-war film Tiefland) to her 197os photography of the Nuba tribe in Sudan to underwater photography in the Indian Ocean in the 1980s. Zero commentary. Nothing but full-page photos. Absolute perfection. I bought it at a used bookstore on the Upper West Side, of all places. But it’s available on Amazon.

  8. Vauquelin
    Posted August 24, 2020 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    Here’s a hot take: Victory of Faith is a better viewing than Triumph of the Will. As a documentary it feels less staged and there is a grit and dynamism in its portrayal of the Party that is lacking in Triumph. Plus, that name, Victory of Faith, is a far better, simpler and more powerful title that encapsulates the spiritual struggle we face: only by truly believing in the cause, every day, can victory be reached.

  9. As I said
    Posted August 25, 2020 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    On Helgoland not only the anthem of the Germans was composed, but also nuclear fission was invented. So it does play a role in which environment the most brilliant ideas come to mind.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gGriZxJ6nZQ

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