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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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Title: The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl (1993)

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Cast

Credited cast:
...
Herself
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 ...
Himself
Jesse Owens ...
Himself (archive footage)
Ernst Röhm ...
Himself (archive footage)
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Storyline

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 <kchishol@execulink.com>

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Release Date:

June 1994 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Power of the Image: Leni Riefenstahl  »

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Box Office

Gross:

$449,707 (USA)
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Edited from Tag der Freiheit - Unsere Wehrmacht (1935) See more »

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User Reviews

Individuals Win
21 December 2005 | by (Virginia Beach) – See all my reviews

Interesting. This is a good documentary about a great documentarian.

I guess the normal form for commenting on this is to take a side on the art/politics controversy. Or perhaps to note film as propaganda tool today.

I think I would rather simply remark that you just cannot watch movies as a lucid viewer without understanding something about who you are in the things. And that means wondering about who the filmmaker thinks you are. And that in turn means considering what it means when a camera is placed or moves in a certain way.

If you do, you will find yourself wondering about the camera of Hitchcock and Welles. Surely that is at least as fundamental as you need to go. But you can go a half step further back and you will find yourself here, with this woman and her dancing eye.

Yes, her personality at 90 is still German, which means she is a romantic idealist and an apologist for her generation. Annoying, but typical. And does it matter? Does it matter if, say, van Gogh was an anti-Semite? You decide. For me, I assume the artist is often the dumbest person involved in the process and the last person to ask. So the art is the thing.

There are three great things she did, and these are apart from the idealization of the body, a constant theme.

She advanced the art of filters to create abstract frames. In this, she was merely one in a line of talents. She was an innovator in creating a new philosophy of the camera. In this, she was a genius. But that wouldn't have mattered if she wasn't also a genius innovator in the art of editing.

She understood that in addition to the story, the images themselves have a rhythm and song apart from the thing depicted. I think she really means it when she says her great propaganda film could have been of any choreographed event. She was a master of exploiting the movement of the eye as well as the movement of the subject, even the rhythm of the greyscales and depths. You need to watch "Triumph" and "Olympia" ignoring the subject, perhaps upside down as I did to see the music.

Having said that, the effect of these two films undeniably altered life. The Nazi film was the single greatest influence in convincing the rural German public to support Hitler. That's huge. But perhaps a larger impact was on sports. Until that point, sports were something you did or read about. You might go to a contest purely for the association of the thing.

What her art did, incidentally, was she made sports cinematic. And we may all be the worse for it.

Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.


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