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LENI RIEFENSTAHL Biographical Essay

Uploaded by magicninja on Dec 22, 2004


German producer, director, writer, editor, and actress Leni Riefenstahl may be considered the best woman in film. The success of her first film, The Blue Light, attracted the attention of Adolf Hitler. Riefenstahl's cinematic abilities and Hitler's fascist obsession with propaganda would prove a cinematically successful relationship; one that would haunt Riefenstahl the rest of her life. Riefenstahl made two documentaries glorifying the Nazis: Triumph of the Will and Olympia. Many cannot divorce Riefenstahl's filmmaking talent with her connection to the nature of the films, but this is absurd as Elia Kazan's work because he named names during the 1950 McCarthy Communist witch-hunt.

One of the biggest problems Riefenstahl had in disassociating herself from the Nazis is the fact that her films were brilliantly made and remain a model of documentary cinema technique. Triumph of the Will used an omniscient point-of-view, a fly-on-the-wall style common to many documentaries today. Aerial shots used in the film help achieve the effect that we are observing the majesty and power of the Nazi Party from the heavens. Riefenstahl's use of editing techniques, like the slow dissolve, also helps create what would become the Nazi myth of invulnerability. In one shot we slowly dissolve from an aerial shot of clouds to an overhead shot of the crowd, a transition that makes Hitler appear as someone descended from the heavens.

After Hitler saw the outcome of Triumph of the Will he convinced Riefenstahl to film the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. For this event which was to symbolize the spectacle and prowess of Nazi Germany, Riefenstahl used even more innovative and powerful techniques than in Triumph of the Will. She used the most sophisticated equipment and techniques of the day. She trained cameramen as divers and used underwater cameras to film the diving sequences. She had cameras mounted on balloons, airplanes, steel towers, and rafts. She also had trenches dug in the stadium turf in order to film the athletes from low angles.

The end result of the filming of the Olympics was titled Olympia. To her credit, even though Hitler ordered Riefenstahl to downplay the achievements of any non-white athletes, Riefenstahl's film focuses on the achievements of African American track star, Jesse Owens. Nonetheless, along with Triumph of the Will, many continue to view this documentary as a symbol of Nazi...

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Uploaded by:   magicninja

Date:   12/22/2004

Category:   Biographies

Length:   3 pages (597 words)

Views:   5019

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