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Underwater Impressions (2002)

Impressionen unter Wasser (original title)
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15 August 2002 (Germany)  »

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Impressions of the Deep  »

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During the shoot, 'Leni Reifenstahl' was at the time the oldest scuba diver in the world. See more »

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More than a nature film
1 May 2005 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This film can be viewed on many levels.

First as a plea for preservation of the coral reefs. The director makes this plea in person at the beginning of the film. The beauty of the photography, the stunning variety of life that is shown and the incredible connection between human and aquatic life that Leni makes when she appears in the film, only serve to continue and strengthen that argument. After seeing this film, it would be hard for anyone to justify a jet ski park in this reef.

Next, it is a nature film, but unlike any nature film I have ever seen. There is no "story", there is no voice over, just music. We are presented simply with a selection of creatures living in the coral reef. The variety is astounding. Creatures of incredible shape and substance; Rocks come alive to reveal they are actually some form of life. Huge rays swim around and dance in an elaborate ballet. The beauty is beyond anything I have seen in similar films - and all of this is done without comment, leading the viewer to thoughtful reflection on the nature of life and form.

It is a work of art. Choosing from what was a huge amount of footage, Leni managed make a film that flows, astounds and keeps our interest without a single word of explanation.

Finally as a personal and perhaps a social document. As I was viewing this film, I could not help but think about her and the judgments against her. Leni has been reviled by so many. Even today the intelligentsia will not forgive her Nazi connections. If I lived through WWII I might feel the same way, but frankly, I am seduced by her art. It is seduction which I submit to willingly, because whatever wrongdoing she has done, it is in the past. Today her films raise us above the mundane and will continue to do so into the future. She always claimed to be innocent of wrongdoing. Was she completely innocent? Probably not; who is? She was always criticized for not admitting to anything. But considering that she was faced with imprisonment, if I were in her shoes, I might not admit anything ether. I do believe that she was not politically motivated to any great degree. I think she used her Nazi connections to help make films which was her real goal. After all, she was a woman in a man's profession. Oportunities were probably not very frequent, even for one of her astounding skills and sensibilities. Her real crime may be simply ignoring politics, and to a political person, that is an unforgivable crime, regardless of what side you are on, especially today.

Seeing the different life forms and the different ways they acted, some harmless, some predatory, and seeing her swimming among them all, I could not help but think that she was, in her own way, making a comment. She seemed to be saying. Do you see all this life, all these different ways of living and being? They do not fit into your neat ideas of what life should be or how life should act. Life knows no boundaries, and we as men and woman can not hope to fully understand it. As an artist I followed my instincts, just as these creatures do, in ways that neither I or you can fully understand. Seeing all this variety, how can you be so sure that you can fully know or judge me?


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