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Impressionen unter Wasser (2002)

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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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Beautiful film - makes me sad for what might have been.
20 April 2005 | by (Chicago, Illinois, USA) – See all my reviews

I watched this film on an imported Hong Kong DVD, and it is spectacularly beautiful. I would guess that this was Riefensthal's last project. She was 98 years old at the time of making it, and some of the footage shows her swimming underwater (with a shock of white hair floating above her diving mask) and examining the aquatic wildlife up close. Presumably she did the majority of the editing, but she did have a camera operator to do the shooting. Giorgio Moroder's electronic synthesizer score is serenely beautiful, with occasional snatches of eeriness suitable for the more unnerving scenes such as a fragile, spindly shrimp-like creature nimbly scrambling into the gaping, sharp-toothed jaws of some large fierce-looking beast to clean its mouth. The dazzlingly myriad, colorful, and bizarre variety of forms that this undersea life takes outdoes the imaginations of the most outlandish science fiction writers and film-makers. No movie alien is stranger than these creatures.

At the start of the film Leni Riefensthal addresses the audience directly, in German (the DVD had English subtitles), explains the form and style of the film, and makes an urgent plea to preserve the great coral reefs and their fantastic wildlife. Watching this frail-looking woman of 98 earnestly making her case for the conservation of these natural wonders, it's easy to forget that she is still reviled by some for her role as Hitler's favorite documentary film-maker. Whatever guilt she may be perceived to bear for that, she paid a heavy price for it. Despite a few projects such as this film, and her still photography, it could be said that for the remainder of her life a potentially great artistic legacy in film was lost because of it - so much talent gone to waste.


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