|Index||5 reviews in total|
I'll get my ass kicked for saying this (so what else is new), but this is a
great movie. The composition of the visuals makes it utterly compelling. The
Spanish setting comes totally to life, and I speak as someone who has
visited the country. The cruelty of the aristocrats, the desperation of the
peasants, the sensuality of the señoritas
it's all typical of the place, and
you can see it in Spanish movies like Los Santos Inocentes (1984). That this
should have been achieved by a bunch of foreigners shooting in 1940 is a
tribute to the genius of director-star Leni Riefenstahl.
LR was originally a dancer, and it shows in her superb command of flamenco dancing here. Having seen the real thing, I can swear that she is as good as any of the Spanish dancers who have grown up doing mudanzas and seguidillas. Being the director, she has the advantage of getting the camera to ogle her every sensuous gyration at close range.
The story concerns a gypsy beggar-dancer who wanders into a Spanish village, where a shepherd falls in love with her and a Marquis falls in lust with her. It must be said that the more romantic scenes are cliché, almost like Valentino, but the more carnal scenes really give off sparks.
Riefenstahl's main concern is with nature and the mountains. The constant theme of the story is the contrast between the purity of the high mountain pastures (moisture and fresh air) and the corruption of the Tiefland (lowland) with its cruel aristocracy and downtrodden peasants - "the men are bad and the women are sick". The scenes of nature photography are first-rate, and anyone who hasn't seen Tiefland is missing out on a major part of the development of cinema. Especially of note are the fast motion scenes of clouds rolling in and lightning striking, also the opening scene with the shepherd wrestling a (very real) wolf. Many of the scenes seem to be directly taken from Goya's paintings of peasant life.
It is interesting to consider that LR's "mountain-films" may have been the ancestors of the spaghetti-western. Tiefland and The Blue Light have many of the features of a western, and could easily be re-made as such (although they would lack the animal magnetism of LR). Try comparing Tiefland to A Fistful of Dollars, you'll see what I mean.
Tiefland was mostly shot in 1940, though for various reasons it wasn't released until 1953. It seems that the extras in the film are gypsies recruited from concentration camps, so the bitterness they exude may be more than just acting. That peasant woman who snarls "you rat" probably really means it. In this sense, Tiefland is a movie about itself and a fascinating social document that takes us back through time and space. (One way we can sympathise with these people is to appreciate their performance for us here). There are even some who maintain that the love-hate relationship between the dancer and the Marquis is a comment on LR's own relationship with Hitler, although I must leave this to others more knowledgeable about European history.
I would like to thank the Imdb-ist who sent me a decent copy of this film, which I never would have thought to watch. You should see it too, dear reader.
Leni Riefenstahl's "Tiefland" surely must be one of the tragedies of
cinematic history. Filmed during WWII, under the scrutiny of the Nazi
administration, it is an unmistakable statement against the evil of
authoritarianism and a call for freedom of the common people from
A little background may be in order for those who are unfamiliar with Riefenstahl. Born into a middle-class family in Berlin in 1902, she aspired to be a dancer. However, during her formal training in her early 20s, she suffered a crippling injury to her knee. While undergoing physical therapy, she discovered the film "Mountain of Destiny" by Arnold Fanck, which was about mountaineering in the Dolomite Mountains. She was fascinated with the film and managed to meet its director. Impressed by her spirit and fresh-faced beauty, he decided she would star in his next film, "The Holy Mountain", another mountaineering film.
After starring in another half dozen films in as many years, Riefenstahl was given an unprecedented opportunity: to direct the official documentary film on the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games. She threw herself into the project, overseeing hundreds of crewmembers and helping develop many revolutionary techniques and pieces of photographic equipment. "Olympia" was an unparalleled artistic achievement and a breathtaking tribute to the athletes that competed. Some opponents to the Nazis derided the film as propaganda, but in fact the film is nearly apolitical. For example, it focuses at length on the black American athlete Jesse Owens and other athletes from (later) Allied nations. 'Olympia' was hailed as a masterpiece around the world.
Impressed with her work, Adolf Hitler required her to make a film to promote the aims of the Nazis, which Riefenstahl did. "Triumph of the Will" became an effective propaganda device for the Nazi Party. Riefenstahl later explained that she had very little choice in the matter; those who refused to do the Party's bidding were routinely imprisoned or killed. It is also important to remember that film directors in every country were required to make propaganda films during the war. Many American directors made wartime propaganda films caricaturing the "Japs" as "yellow devils".
Nevertheless, Riefenstahl regretted her involvement, and hoped for some way to show the public that they should not believe the image that Hitler was attempting to project. That was where "Tiefland" came in. Ostensibly a "folk tale", it tells the story of a poor gypsy dancer in Spain who is desired and eventually imprisoned by the tyrannical lord of the land. Marta, played by Riefenstahl herself, only wants her freedom and peace for the oppressed peasants. Her salvation comes in the form of a lowly shepherd who loves her.
Technically, 'Tiefland" is well-crafted, with great care given to sets and locations, and some striking cinematography. The acting is rather understated, and the characters are fairly three-dimensional.
In many ways, "Tiefland's" story is somewhat old-fashioned for the early 1940s -- fairly predictable and quaint. But under the surface is an undeniable denouncement of oppression and tyranny. No doubt, Riefenstahl used the allegory as undiluted as she dared. The lord is dark and tempestuous, rather like Hitler. He rules the peasants without a care for their welfare. Had it been filmed in Germany, it probably would have been banned and resulted in Riefenstahl's arrest. That would come very soon, but from the victorious Allies, rather than the Axis.
As soon as the war was over, Riefenstahl (like thousands of others who had worked in the Nazi Party) were detained while it was determined whether or not they should stand trial for war crimes. She was never officially charged, but she spent four years in detention, and her rolls of film for 'Tiefland' were stored carelessly. When she was finally able to regain possession of her film, she could find no support or financing for its completion. She labored on, and in 1954 - ten years after filming began (and with many of the cast and crew dead from the war), Tiefland was finally complete. Naturally, no one would help release a film by the woman that was (wrongly) claimed to have been 'Hitler's girlfriend', and so, Tiefland remained in its cans.
An aside: the great aim of Riefenstahl's life had been to film an adaptation of the Greek legend of Penthisilea. Unfortunately, despite much work and a very promising premise (the story of the female Amazon warriors, filmed by a woman director), Penthisilea never saw completion and its footage is lost.
N.B.: I recently received a message from IMDb stating "This review was deleted by IMDb based on an abuse report filed by another user". I have carefully read IMDb's Guidelines and my review in no way violates them. It IS, however, against IMDb's Guidelines to flag other people's reviews out of a personal disagreement with the content of their reviews. That, I suspect is what's happening. If this review gets flagged, I will re-post it again, and as often as necessary.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Tiefland" or "Lowlands" is a West German / Austrian co-production that runs for slightly over 90 minutes and was released in 1954, so this film is already over 60 years old. Actually, this black-and-white film is even over 70 years old as it took a really long time for director Leni Riefenstahl to get it released. Apart from a fairly recent nature documentary, it is Riefenstahl's very last effort in terms of filmmaking. She also plays the lead actress, a dancer stuck between two men. Riefenstahl said herself that in retrospective, it was a bad decision to play the main role herself as she was simply too old for the part. The way you perceive and (dis)like this film will have a lot to do with how much you care for Martha, the dancer and how much you are interested in which man she will choose. I must say I personally couldn't care less. The acting as well as script did very little for me and I cannot say that Riefenstahl went out on a high note in my opinion. Quite a pity actually. I give her film here a thumbs-down and it is far from the best achievements of her career. Not recommended.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Yes! Miss Riefenstahl received funds from Mr Mustache .Innocent gypsies were used as extras,one of the faces I quickly recognized as one of the survivors of Hitler,she was a little girl, who showed up in the documentary later on ,"The Wonderful terrible life of Leni Riefenstahl. It looked like her. But Jack the ripper killed a lot of women.Yes! Jeffrey Dohmmer ate his friends,and never let any one know a head of time, Yes!,The titanic sank ?yes!.Mayer was sympathetic with Marie Antoinette .This is true.Except facts don't deny them just because they were unpleasant.But Remember political correctness promotes censorship to make up for the past to spread communism in a sneaky way.They don't care about Jews or gypsies.It's true that Leni did choose the victims as extras,but she delayed their deaths.May be this might have contributed to a few who survived.But she did no take action in pushing them to the gas chambers.Her crime was like the majority of German crime,apathy and cowardliness. If you don't think until her death the horrors of what she found out after that did not affect her mind,you bet it did.The rest of her life.She might of not have admitted it.But you bet it did. Two middle age actresses play young women in this picture,Leni Riefenstahl playing Martha,Triumph of the Will and S.o.s Iceberg ,and Maria Koppenhoffer playing Donna Amelia,daughter of the mayor too.Like she did in Kora Terry and Das Herz Der Konigin,in which she plays her age,her bossy attitude give her age away trying to play a young daughter.But this is acting.Two stalwart German character actors show up in this film. Aribert Wascher,of It was a grate night after the Ball 1939,Make love to me 1942,Women make much better diplomats 1942, and Frieda Richards,of die Golden Staht fame. Leni attempts to portray a 20 year old by talking less.The lighting throw off her age a bit ,but not much, Bernhardt Minnetti ,as Don Sebastian, is good at playing the evil Marquee that controls the town He just cut off the peasants water supply. He's broke and is planning to marry the Mayer daughter for the money,but he want Martha too.Franz Eichberger plays Pedro the Shepherd honest and hard working.He love's Martha too.this was 1940,one of the character actors ,a short mustache and bearded guy ,the scene in which he tries to grab Martha ,while she dancing, fat and stocky was also in Kora Terry. The editing of the picture and sound is 1950's feel ,of course.You do see those poor gypsy's in the back drop ,but, in a way this might of delayed their murders and even contributed for some of their survival.If this picture was never made all of them would of been murdered quick.Why did it took too long to complete.Money!Also other situation that delayed shooting. Unfortunately,due to the German constitution, It's still banned in that country ,just as the great dictator,1940 is .Subtitled in English. Beautiful digital print.Available at Germanwarfilms.com 02/04/12
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Before begin with the review, it must be pointed out that the star and
director of this film, Leni Riefenstahl, was an incredibly complex and
controversial lady...and, despite her protests, a rotten person. Just
read through the trivia section for this film and you'll see how she
lied about the fates of the extras in the movie. Perhaps some did
survive the gas chambers, her claim that 'they all survived the war'
was just a self-serving lie--a way to justify her use of prisoners as
extras in this film.
My reason for wanting to see the film certainly is not because I think Riefenstahl was a nice person. But, you can't just ignore her films--many were artistic and of exceptional quality. Plus, after I saw her in the wonderfully well done biography "The Wonderful Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl" and heard about "Tiefland" I was determined to see the film that took her over a decade to complete.
When the film begins, you'd swear that apart from some sound effects and music it's another one of her silent films. The cinematography, like these earlier films, is exceptionally artistic and lovely. The pacing and style also fit into this style of film. It is only later that the film becomes a more typical talking picture--and that is when the main story begins.
The film concerns a despicable Marquis living in what appears to be the Basque region of Spain. The man is thoroughly awful in every way. The peasants in his village are starving and their crops failing because he's taken all the water for his cattle. Yet, despite their resulting poverty, he demands payment of their yearly rent! He also has run up huge debts and plans on marrying the rich Mayor's daughter (who he doesn't love) to pay off the debts...if he has to. But in the meantime, he treats her terribly and is just an all-around jerk.
After the Marquis observes a beautiful(?) nomadic dancer (Riefenstahl), he is determined to make her his mistress. At first he is kind to her but it's all an act to get her to love him. When she learns about who he really is, she tries to run but he uses his men to track her down. They find her in the Shepherd's hut--he's found her and nursed her after she fell in the mountains (and EVERY Reifenstahl film except for her propaganda films has mountains!). The Shepherd later learns that the Marquis wants this simple man to marry the dancer and he is thrilled. He, too, saw Riefenstahl dance and loves the idea of marrying her. What he doesn't know is that the Marquis' plan is for the Shepherd's marriage to be a false one--and the Marquis will continue to sleep with Riefenstahl while he, too, is married. Nice guy, huh? However, the plan begins to unravel with the Shepherd and his new wife find that they do love each other and the Shepherd is not about to let his new bride be some jerk's concubine--leading to the best scene in the film--the finale.
All in all, this is a lovely and very well made film. So, while I cannot at all respect Riefenstahl as a human being, I must admit that she was very talented--especially as a director. As for her acting in the film, it wasn't bad but she simply was too old for this role---and it was difficult to imagine the swine of a Marquis to fight so hard to have her.
|Ratings||External reviews||Plot keywords|
|Main details||Your user reviews||Your vote history|