Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Before Steven Speilberg there was Leni Riefenstahl!
Berlin, Germany—As a film lover and novice filmmaker I am beyond fascinated and spellbound by a truly amazing woman. She was an athlete, rock climber, mountain climber, dancer, actor, photographer, filmmaker, writer, scuba diver and major artist. This woman was gifted, talented and downright gorgeous.
Leni Riefenstahl was born in 1902 in this great city. Riefenstahl was raised in prosperity and rather than follow in her father’s business footstep chose to make her mark in performance and art. Riefenstahl was a strikingly beautiful contemporary of fellow actress Marlene Dietrich.
Riefenstahl had a problem, this incredibly lady had to master absolutely everything she ever tried. She made it her goal to do everything perfectly. She failed at nothing and was redundantly proven to be fearless.
As a budding filmmaker she was nothing less than a major pioneer that invented cinema techniques still being used today. She’d go to any length to create an exciting film shot out of the most ordinary human movement. Riefenstahl created cranes, rails and every conceivable kind of device to capture nearly impossible cinematic shots.
She attended one Nazi Party rally and like most of the world at that time, she admired Adolph Hitler as a potential savior of Germany. Her goal was always to gain opportunities to act, perform and make films. Hitler and his propaganda minister, Josef Goebbels was mesmerized by the exceptional young woman and invited her into what became an incredible nightmare.
Riefenstahl made a film that showcased the Third Reich called, Triumph des Willens or Triumph of the Will. The film was a documentary of feature film proportions that was made in Nuremberg. The film was a masterpiece of precession and military pageantry. Today the film is banned in Germany as a result of aggressive de-Naziification. For Riefenstahl this was more about art and filmmaking than documenting the birth of what would later become a ruthless, cruel and monstrous political regime.
In 1936 Riefenstahl created 200 miles of film to show the world the Olympics. Her film never once slighted America’s black athletic wonder, Jessie Owens of his stunning victory. With her films Olympia I and 2, Riefenstahl became the quintessential sports filmmaker that is still the role model of every sports photographer or filmmaker worldwide.
Josef Goebbels understandably wanted to make a mistress out of Riefenstahl but the truth was that she found him unattractive. To Riefenstahl's chagrin, Goebbels embellished their “friendship” in his personal diaries.
The war ended and despite the fact that Riefenstahl never once placed an anti-Semitic scene in her films or let such a word to pass her lips was arrested and put on trial. Her career was over and the best years of her life were just beginning. Riefenstahl was condemned, castigated and blackballed. Rather than to accept total defeat Riefenstahl went to Africa and began filming primitive tribes and even pursued groundbreaking oceanographic filmmaking. She never found real success again as the cinema legend she truly was.
Like all German civilians Riefenstahl was misled by the criminals running her government and only learned about the death camps after the war ended. This gifted artist was soon blamed for creating Hitler’s image and allowing him to seduce the world through her films. Unfortunately the world still remains ignorant of the truth nearly a decade after her death at the age of 101.