Remembering Leni Riefenstahl
(August 22, 1902–September 8, 2003)
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1933, 64 minutes) was a documentary of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party’s 1933 Nuremberg Rally, which was withdrawn after the 1934 purge of Ernst Röhm, who featured prominently in the movie.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)
- Victory of Faith
- The Blue Light
- 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:
- Jonathan Bowden, “Hans-Jürgen Syberberg: Leni Riefenstahl’s Heir?” (podcast and transcript, short article)
- P. J. Collins, “Leni Riefenstahl in Modern Memory“
- Jef Costello, “Disingenuous Genius: A Tribute to Leni Riefenstahl”
- Alex Graham, “Hitler and Film“
- Andrew Hamilton, “Leni Riefenstahl’s Lost Film: Victory of Faith (1933)”
- Derek Hawthorne, “The Holy Mountain”
- Derek Hawthorne, “The White Hell of Pitz Palu”
- Derek Hawthorne, “Storm Over Mont Blanc”
- Derek Hawthorne, “S.O.S. Iceberg”
- Greg Johnson, “Rammstein’s ‘Stripped’ and ‘Links 2-3-4’ Videos”
- Thomas Goodrich, “Good War . . . Better Peace“
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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