Riefenstahl - What's your view?

Something from today’s TT made me think about a long standing WW2 debate that I would love to hear more about?

[quote]Selected by Hitler to be Germany’s official film maker, Riefenstahl won awards at the Venice and Paris film festivals in the 1930s for her Triumph of the Will, a documentary highlighting the meticulously choreographed, eerie grandeur of the Nazi Party’s 1934 Nuremberg Rally.

“One had forgotten that this film before the war won all the prizes in the world and the whole world considered this film wonderful,” Riefenstahl told Reuters in an interview last year.

“But after the war one said what I did was wrong. I didn’t make it as a political movie, but more as an artwork. That was my misfortune.”

After Triumph of the Will, she was commissioned to make the official film of the 1936 Olympics.

Despite its propaganda, Olympia was notable for the use of then-new techniques such as mounting the camera on electric cars on rails beside the track to follow races, as well as using balloons and rubber rafts to get the angles Riefenstahl wanted.

The joy and agony on athletes’ faces was filmed close-up. No other filmmaker had shot an athletic event in that way before.[/quote]
So, was (is) she a genius who got caught up with the socialist side of the NAZI empire, before it got bad, and then was stuck with her decision? Is she now playing mea culpa? Was she actually a Nazi, and now trying to repent?

Should we judge a lifetime of work on the first 20 years, or were her contributions to the Nazi empire so egregious that they are unforgivable and therefore taint the remainder of her work.

I am just throwing this out for discussion - don’t have any real strong opinions on this myself, but I know that among many it is a big deal.

“Discuss amongst yourselves”

damn. it was on the tip of my tongue. i was thinking l…stahl or r…stahl. now it comes back leni riefenstahl.

this kinda brings in the controversy with communists, hollywood, and blacklisting certain people way back when.

or that russian (soviet) director who also made propaganda films that were artistically ground-breaking (the troops marching down the steps in Battleship Potemkin)

I would like to think that it’s nice if we could judge art separately from the artist’s actions past or present. hell, if a murderer or a rapist had good paintings, it wouldn’t change the fact that the paintings are good.
Hell, some of the worst despots in history were responsible for commissioning great art/architecture/etc. Does that make the art any less (ok this is slightly different since we don’t know the beliefs of the artisans unlike riefenstahl’s case)

of course, lots of the Nazi era German musuem art /scuplture was a bunch of unoriginal shite. their other propaganda material was pretty good (Das Signal).

Or we could look at what’s his name/the director whose wife was Sharon Tate (killed by Manson), but fled the US after being charged with sex with a minor. although not rising to the level of nazism, as a “child rapist” alleged or not, he still has a place in cinematography.


Riefenstahl was a nazi. She may have been attracted by the asthetic side of facism, or being able to hobnob with the Fuhrer, but she was a Nazi. She later claimed that she didn’t know anything abotu politics, but certain things from another film she made of another rally (not Triumph of the Will, but another whose name I forget) show that she was fully aware of what was going on politically.

As for the idea that you can divorce art for politics, this argument is particularly weak when it comes to nazism. Facism is all about art - it’s the asthetics of might. And Little old Leni played a significant part in building this asthetic.


So can one be a bad person with faulty judgement and an artist? Of course. Maestro Herbert von Karajan is a prime example. His musical achievements are legendary, but he was a card-carrying member of the Nazi party. We humans are a mess of contradictions. :?

There’s no doubt that you can be a ‘bad person’ and an artist, (or a child rapist and a great director), but what I object to is LR’s long campaign to protest her innocence witht he two arguments “I didn’t know anything about the politics of the Nazi party” and “my art can be seen outside of a political contex” (not direct quotes, but those are the sort of things she says).


The New York Times did an interesting article on her shortly after her 100th birthday last year. (She’s almost as old as Mme. Chiang :shock: )

Someone put the article on Usenet.


Interesting article. Thanks for posting it;

I find her story fascinating, and I do wonder where do we draw the line between art and politics, between politics and life…

i guess it boils down to a personal subjective opinion, but fascinating nonetheless

“Artists” have a long history of sucking up to monsters…Oliver Stone and his film (“Comandante”) glorifying Castro is one of the more recent. At least Riefenstahl’s camera work is better.

And my god isn’t she exceptionally good at it. The Last of the Nuba. What a collection of photos!

I recalled she was criticised for holding to the fascist obsession with manliness and some such but for godsake, the subjects were a sub-species in Nazi think.


[quote=“Huang Guang Chen”]
And my god isn’t she exceptionally good at it. The Last of the Nuba. What a collection of photos![/quote]

Beautiful work. She makes Herb Ritts’ Africa look like a piece of pretentious garbage…which of course it is. :laughing:

faheykleingallery.com/exhibi … l_nuba.htm

She was a great artist. She was also a Nazi. Great artists sometimes embrace weird worldviews. The world should never forget she was a great artist. We should also never forget she was a Nazi.

What’s the real differnce between her being a Nazi, the communists in Hollywood (like Jane Fonda) or…child rapists like Polanski? I find it odd that anytime Riefenstahl’s name is mentioned, the next word is Nazi. Hanoi Jane sure doesn’t have similar problems and neither does Polanski. BTW, I’m not defending Riefenstahl…I just find the contradictions delicious.

“We were elated when Jane Fonda, wearing a red Vietnamese dress, said at a press conference that she was ashamed of American actions in the war, and that she would struggle along with us.” - Bui Tin, Colonel, People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN).

thesmokinggun.com/archive/po … over1.html

blueface666, good questions. But Fonda is hardly an artiste on a par with this Nazi broad. Fonda is just a commerical actress married to the right men in her life. She is nothing, in reality. As for Polanski, he IS an artiste, too, and he did not rape a child. Come on, blueface 666, the girl he had sex with in Californicationville was smoking dope with him, allowed him to take nude pics of her and willingly had consenual sex with him. It was her mother who complained to the police. That hardly makes him a “child rapist”. Poor judgement, though, and he got caught by the American Puritans. The woman in question has now forgiven him. I don’t think Riefenstahl has been forgiven by the ghosts of the Nazi era, although we should look at her art and her politics on two different levels.

But just as Fonda will always be Hanoi Jane and Polanski will also be Child Rapist Roman, Riefenstahl will always have Nazi after her name. Not fair. You are right. But, c’est la vie.

German radio news just now:

Leni Riefenstahl has died at age 101.


Vale Lenni.

No death bed confessions? Not one little sieg heil!?


What a load of shite. He raped the girl. She was 13 and he sodomised her. That’s rape. Just because it wasn’t a violent attack (he used booze, drugs and his position of power instead) doesn’t mean it’s not rape. Making light of it is like defending his pedophilia because he’s an artist.

There is a difference between Polanski, Fona and Riefenstahl.

As long as Polanski’s not making a film which seems to justify sex with children, or something like that, then you can see his art seperate from his perversion.

As Fonda wasn’t making propoganda films for the Viet Minh, you can see her work as seperate from her support for their cause.

On the other hand Riefenstahl was part of the work of creating and defining the Fascist aesthetic which was such an important part of what Nazism was about. Moreover she was consciously making films with the specific intention of aiding the Nazi party. Polanski was not making films to support pedophilia, and Fonda was not making films to support Communism.

The only thing that distresses me about Riefenstahl’s death is that we’re going to see a whole lot of rehash of this nonsense that you can see the art of her ‘propaganda’ films as seperate from the ideology of Nazism.


[quote=“Comrade Stalin”]I find it odd that anytime Riefenstahl’s name is mentioned, the next word is Nazi. quote]

Not in this review of a new book about her it isn’t. :laughing:

[quote]Leni: The Life and Work of Leni Riefenstahl
Steven Bach
Alfred A. Knopf: 386 pp., $30

Leni Riefenstahl was a slut. Steven Bach is too graceful a writer and too nuanced a psychologist to summarize this life so bluntly, but, for the reader of his brilliant biography of the Nazi filmmaker, that conclusion is inescapable.

We are not speaking primarily of her sexual life, though it was relentlessly busy (her taste ran to hunky jock types and, equally, to men who could advance her career). That epithet applies also to her blind — and blinding — ambition. There was no one she would not try to seduce, in one way or another, in pursuit of fame, fortune and power — including, of course, smitten, impotent Adolf Hitler, who was über alles among her admirers.[/quote][/quote]

Seems a tad harsh to me, and well I’ve never liked the idea that “slut” was such a bad thing. but then I’ve not read the book.