The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl (1993)
"Die Macht der Bilder: Leni Riefenstahl" (original title)

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A documentary about the life and work of Leni Riefenstahl, a German film director most notorious for making the most effective propaganda films for the Nazis.



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Director: Leni Riefenstahl
Stars: Leni Riefenstahl


Credited cast:
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Herself (archive footage)
Walter Frentz ...
Himself - Camerman 1936 Olymipcs
Joseph Goebbels ...
Himself (archive footage) (as Josef Goebbels)
Rudolf Hess ...
Himself (archive footage)
John Herbert Higgins ...
Himself - U.S. Swimmer (archive footage)
Himself (archive footage)
Saburo Ito ...
Himself - Japanese Swimmer (archive footage)
Horst Kettner ...
Himself - Leni's Companion
Reizô Koike ...
Himself - Japanese Swimmer (archive footage)
Guzzi Lantschner ...
Himself - Camerman 1936 Olymipcs
Ralph Metcalfe ...
Himself - U.S. Sprinter (archive footage)
Ray Müller ...
Jesse Owens ...
Himself (archive footage)
Ernst Röhm ...
Himself (archive footage)


This documentary recounts the life and work of one of most famous, and yet reviled, German film directors in history, Leni Riefenstahl. The film recounts the rise of her career from a dancer, to a movie actor to the most important film director in Nazi Germany who directed such famous propaganda films as Triumph of the Will and Olympiad. The film also explores her later activities after Nazi Germany's defeat in 1945 and her disgrace for being so associated with it which includes her amazingly active life over the age of 90. Written by Kenneth Chisholm <>

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Release Date:

June 1994 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Power of the Image: Leni Riefenstahl  »

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$449,707 (USA)

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Edited from Tag der Freiheit - Unsere Wehrmacht (1935) See more »

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User Reviews

Riefenstahl and Eisenstein
7 March 2008 | by (Indiana, United States) – See all my reviews

>>>> "Why is Leni Riefenstahl, who created propaganda for the murderous Hitler ("Olympia" -- which pioneered many of the techniques now cliché in sports camera-work and editing, and the notorious "Triumph of the Will"), despised and reviled while the work of Eisenstein and others who created propaganda for the murderous Stalin is lovingly taught in film schools?"

Riefenstahl was a brilliant technical innovator, whose status among the top film-makers of the century has never been challenged. I would be very surprised if film schools ignore her work.

On the other hand, she has lied and lied again about her relationship with the Nazis. For example, she has claimed that she met after the war all the Roma and Sinti prisoners whom she used as extras. They were sent to Auschwitz after she had finished with them. She has tried to persuade us that she was a naive ingenue who knew nothing about Nazism and who was horrified that her films were used as propaganda.

Eisenstein was an unapologetic believer in communism, although of a very different kind from that of Stalin. His relations with the regime were extremely difficult after Stalin took power, because of his politics, his artistic techniques and the amount of time he spent abroad. He was forced to write self-denunciations for his deviations from party orthodoxy. Of the five films he made in Russia during the last 20 years of his life, two were banned and two were destroyed.

His films are marred at points by traces of immediate political concerns, as when he hints in "The Battleship Potemkin" (1925), set in 1905, at the "petty-bourgeois individualism" of some Kronstadt sailors, to justify the slaughter of the Kronstadt soviet in 1921. Nevertheless, several of his films are clearly great achievements, despite all the censorship he had to endure.

As for other film-makers who were propagandists for the Soviet Union, as opposed to Russians who made films, such as Mikhail Romm and his pupils, the obvious examples are the documentarists Karmen and Vertov. Karmen is hardly known in the English-speaking world. Vertov is much better known, as a technical innovator and theoretician of film, but his career was destroyed by the rise of "socialist realism".

Eisenstein was never a propagandist for Stalin in the way that Riefenstahl was for Hitler, and the visibility of other Stalinists is decidedly limited. Of course, one could decide that every unpurged Russian director was a Stalinist, or every unpurged American director was a McCarthyite.

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