Helene Bertha Amalie Riefenstahl

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Leni Riefenstahl retaining her aesthetic professionalism was her main job no matter being the critic as an agonist guided by ambition that takes handle things for personal benefit and neglects the ethical consequences of the situation. Riefenstahl claims that her art used to be not meant for propaganda as a substitute her work as an artist was to document historic events in a creative manner.
Riefenstahl Early Life
Helene Bertha Amalie Riefenstahl commonly known as Leni Riefenstahl was born in Germany 22 August 1902 to a German father Alfred Theodor Paul Riefenstahl, a profitable heating and ventilation company proprietor who wished for her daughter to follow her footsteps in order to secure household fortune. However, Leni mother Bertha Ida (Scherlach), believed otherwise that her daughter will succeed in the field of art and show business as Riefenstahl fell in love with arts in her childhood. She engaged in painting and poetry at age of four.

She was athletic she joined gymnastics and swimming club at twelve, despite her father inclinations Riefenstahl’s mother supported her. In 1918, when she was 16, Riefenstahl attended a presentation of Snow White which interested her deeply and its then she knew art is what she wanted. Without her father’s knowledge, she enrolled Riefenstahl in dance and ballet classes at the Grimm-Reiter Dance School in Berlin, where she quickly became a star pupil.

Riefenstahl being obsessed with film production took her time in learning different ways to improve her philosophy as an artist. She had many opportunities to expound new ideas behind the camera. Riefenstahl organized her work well by the planning of every shot, using camera angles and also editing with creativity.

Riefenstahl Involvement with Hitler

Riefenstahl attended her first political rally, a meeting that impressed her due to Hitler’s vision of making Germany a united nation. Riefenstahl involvement with Hitler gave her an opportunity to produce a film for Germany, where Riefenstahl argues that making films for an organization with proper ideologies will help improve her creativity in filmmaking.

Having no interest in working with the political class of propaganda, Riefenstahl decided to focus much on the subject matter to gain creativity of art. Propaganda was what Hitler considered essential in getting into power and remaining a conqueror, contrary to Riefenstahl who wished the world could view her as artists. (Kelman , 2003).

Leni Riefenstahl maintained she never joined the Nazi Party and how she engaged with Nazi party is uncertain.

Riefenstahl progressed well in her career of filmmaking, producing a superb cinema entitled Triumph of the will. This documentary cinema aroused different arguments. Many viewed Triumph of the Will as appraise for Nazi Party which was the party in control of filmmaking in Germany. Riefenstahl, however, maintained that Triumph of the Will was just a documentary and she is innocent of Nazi promotion effect in the film. Riefenstahl further augured that the documentary was filmed in an artist way and not in political view. Corliss, Richard (22 August 2002).

Riefenstahl claimed that she had little choice on the produced film because Hitler himself drafted the film. Riefenstahl was given only two weeks to make a plan of the film. This is according to her argument. Riefenstahl having an inferior say about the Triumph of the Will film made the cinema to be used in bigger cities as a propaganda tool.

Adolf Hitler used propaganda in his regime to maintained power, acting as a powerful instrument in implementing the government policies. Propaganda sparks the argument that Germany was defeated in war because of propaganda which Hitler claims it was effective in conquering the world.

Propaganda is a tool which addresses itself in masses by fixing intellectual aspects. Propaganda awakes the imagination of the people through their feelings. The reasoning judgment of the masses does not rely on diplomatic forms but depends much on the idea of one another.

Majority people in the government are feminine in their character and general outlook. Propaganda has no basis of investigating the truth in a real context since it view the aspect of truth in favour of its own side. The masses are restricted in exercising their power. The understanding of the people in propaganda is weak in implementing government policies.

Adolf Hitler puts the idea of propaganda into practice in his government making the access of mass media limited. When political meeting are held, a few are given opportunity to make a speech in the fear that the nation’s secrets could be known.

Hitler criticized the misery and suffering of German’s and declared that Germans should struggle for their independence and power being the German anti-Semitism.

Adolf Hitler and Nazi propaganda resulted in and Nazi propagandists played on widespread and long-established German anti-Semitism. The Jews faced rejection having their properties being banned as robbing intensify. The Jews were blamed of avoiding physical labour. The Jews were also accused of kidnapping children before the Passover. This continues to reveal how propaganda can damage and create suffering for that not in power.

Propagandist developed successful campaigns using their repeated slogans and images to win the support of the public. Newspapers and posters campaigns were widely used to support Nazi government.

Filmography of Riefenstahl

Riefenstahl was very innovative and creative in nature. Riefenstahl contributed to film as director of the following film: The Blue Light 1932, Victory of the Faith (1933), Triumph of the Will (1935), 1938 Riefenstahl directed Olympia and Tiefland (1944)

Riefenstahl was also a film actress in 1926 in Fanck and in 1995, Riefenstahl acted in Night of the filmmakers. Riefenstahl also contributed in publication. She published The Last of the Nuba, New York in 1974, The Riefenstahl Life in 1992, and A Memoir in 1994 and also Olympia, London in 1994.

Riefenstahl wrote many articles such as:

An Interview with a Legend in 1965, Reply to Paul Rotha in 1967, Statement of Olympia in 1967,

A with Gordon Hitchens, in Film Comment, Winter 1965 and Why I Am Filming in 1973

Riefenstahl produced books such as; Hull, David Stewart in 1973 during the Third Reich, Nazi Cinema in1974 and Leni Riefenstahl in 1978.Riefenstahl also wrote books entitled Metuchen, New Jersey in 1991 and Triumph of the Will in 1991.

She will be remembered for her many film production in Germany and perhaps, film-making role. Riefenstahl produced Triumph of the Will as her first production after retiring from dancing. Triumph of the Will in 1935 following a command from Hitler.

Riefenstahl had passion in film production and in 1936; she introduced another documentary featuring athletes, the Olympia documentary.

Triumph of the Will

Riefenstahl produced Triumph of the Will documentary using in-depth professional aesthetic creativity earning the film Germany Film Prize. Hitler acknowledged Triumph of the Will as unique and adoration of the power .Triumph of Will being the first film to showcase events shows the efforts of Riefenstahl to change the face of documentary production.

Having no spoken commentary, Speeches made by Hitler and Nazi leaders demonstrated how Riefenstahl used Triumph of Will film to explain the difference between propaganda and art of film production. Riefenstahl demonstrated the effect of image that represented the historical moments in the world. Despite Riefenstahl Triumph of the Will capturing the real events, Loiperdinger insists that Triumph of Will glorifies Adolf Hitler. Loiperdinger, M (2003).

Most film critics maintained that accepting Triumph of Will as an art was same as observing the real image using Hitler perspective. The scene of placing camera behind Hitler’s back made the audience belief the notion that the Triumph of the Will was totally anticipation and total control of Hitler.

Triumph of Will film highlighted poetic implementation Germany development as a nation. The documentary consisted of Hitler’s speech which claims that large percentage of Germany people had secured a job and this justify a rebuild nation. Riefenstahl through Triumph of the Will documentary compiled images of swastika soldiers developing Hitler’s image spirit of go march on. Smith, David Calvert (2000).

Riefenstahl based the Triumph of Will on observational aspect that is upheld for its unique shooting and composition techniques. Leni Riefenstahl used different techniques when covering rally. She did this without interfering with other events that took place at the same time. Germany under the guard of Hitler holds the hope that Leni Riefenstahl through Triumph of Will was to glorify Adolf Hitler.

Art and Propaganda

The sense of interaction between propaganda and art created heated debates as a result of Riefenstahl controversial figure in cinema. Some critics were in a declaration move to ban Riefenstahl’s film while others appreciated the beauty of Riefenstahl creativity in her work.

The fate of Riefenstahl also lies on gender. It was unusual practice in Germany for a woman to become a director. Riefenstahl had demonstrated exemplary performance in a male profession making her a star. Riefenstahl became famous in Germany regime bringing back the lost glory of women leadership which was diminished when Nazi Party came into power.

Olympia Film

In her film Olympia Leni Riefenstahl identified the body as a mass ornament. In Germany, for example, people had a perception of her Nazi propaganda film as a link between political and moral condemning and on the other hand and appreciation of aesthetic ideas. Riefenstahl used classical narratives to present the body as a mass ornament.

In part two of the film Olympia, the athletes were presented as ideal bodies for advertisements and a modern definition of beauty. Olympia glorifies Nazi Germany as the successor of Greek ancient times in terms of ascetics and politics. Olympia directly refers to the racists’ models of all times Olympia often showed their outstanding performance field athlete Jesse Owens the several trips she made to Africa were characteristics of the earliest stage of development of an organism. Riefenstahl sees this as the present and wanted to have it in her photographs. Riefenstahl isolated the models from their normal living conditions and photographed them in low angles shots against a clear sky. Kit, Borys (29 September 2014).

Riefenstahl had party rally films apart from Olympia after experiencing unprecedented financial resources and having to oversee the direction of various films, she opted to develop a new form of a documentary in a cinematic correspondence to it. Olympia presented a new face of Germany whereas, on the other hand, the party rally glorified Hitler and his image and the relationship he had with his followers which were normally based on being submissive.

Riefenstahl defense strategy was always aimed firstly she was interrogated by US based army where she denied being a close associate of Hitler’s regime .She rejected questions on how much she benefited from the dictatorship of Hitler and whether her success was as a result of her films funding from the German government. Her denial of being involved with the Hitler government attracted criticism from the masses and they ended up denying her memoirs (leni)

The renowned artist Riefenstahl puts clearly the production of Olympia film as a sport centered production which was also used to enhanced film production through new devices. Critics have also argued that Olympia was part of a propaganda tool used for political promotion. Nazi ideologies seem partly to promote Olympia film by supporting its principle of promoting National Socialism.

Riefenstahl used Berlin Olympics of 1936 to exploit the most existing moments in sports events despite criticism. Hitler on the other hand did not want the idea of Olympics and coming into power two years later, the fight of blacks to be excluded in Olympics began. The National Olympic Committee maintained held persuasive talks with Hitler, the main objective being to understand the impact Aryan athletes will bring to Germany government.

Olympia film continued being scrutinized as a Nazi propaganda. Many could argue that Riefenstahl produced Olympia documentary focus on art content but, Nazi politics was also fundamental in her production, an argument contrary to Riefenstahl claim. Riefenstahl, Leni (2002).

Riefenstahl may have been naïve of all the critics in Olympia production due to the fact that her professional aesthetics was extraordinary and she could not escape Hitler involvement in her career. Riefenstahl was forced to meet with Hitler for acceptance of the film to run and also abide by Germany film structure. On the other hand, it is difficult to accept Riefenstahl innocence in politics having being aware of Hitler manifesto. This however remains a debatable argument.

However, there is no concrete evidence to accuse Riefenstahl in her career endeavors. With the absence of real proof that Riefenstahl was part of Nazi promotion in producing Olympia, makes no proof that Olympia is a propaganda tool as critic’s states. De-Nazification courts went on declined to label Riefenstahl as Nazi .That makes it difficult to name Riefenstahl Olympia film as propaganda.

Audience vividly viewed Olympia documentary as a success to the world through Olympics. Viewers had an opportunity to meet favorite athletes. Olympia was categorized into two parts Festive of beauty and the festive of people. Olympia film was used by Riefenstahl to express her ability to get in touch with events as it unfolds together with political and cultural influence. Olympics events were viewed as an area where Jews were debarred from participating in competition despite efforts by Olympic Committee to eradicate discrimination.

Leni Riefenstahl art whether she should be judge alongside politics is an endless heated debate .Due to paradox surrounding her work of art, one invariably puts Riefenstahl’s work into an arguable context of either being an art or as propaganda. To achieve clear understanding of film, one has to recognize Riefenstahl as a filmmaker in order to escape use of terms like art or propaganda. Mathews, Thomas. (2015)”

Alternatively, aesthetic criterion should be used to judge Riefenstahl’s work putting politics aside. Appreciation of value of work made bay Riefenstahl to reveal the beauty of art. A true artist as emulated by Riefenstahl avoided dictation and critics but rather set ambitions to demonstrate aesthetics as a reality.

The existence of audience in the world of art brings anticipation, formulating questions of what the arts lack, what is present or absent. The audience also response whether film is good or bad. This will not go far to ask whether film is a propaganda or art. This makes aesthetic propaganda be created by subjects.

Riefenstahl’s Career Challenges

Success goes hand in hand with handles and this was no different with Riefenstahl who despite being an iron lady in her career, she had unfinished projects towards the end of the war. Riefenstahl tried to make many films in her career but faced resistance receiving sharp criticism from the public. Stephen Prince, A. (2000)

Riefenstahl narrates the biggest regrets in life when she met Adolf Hitler. She says it was the biggest misfortune of her life. Riefenstahl had opportunities of groundbreaking but she was not outflow with the past interaction with Nazi Party. Riefenstahl was once under house arrest for a long period of time. She was in the hands of police four times tied by postwar authorities

She was also under house arrest for a period of time. She was tried four times by postwar authorities for demassification. Riefenstahl was later released after being found to be a traveler who was in support of Nazi. Riefenstahl remained a controversial figure in her entire life.

In 2000, Riefenstahl survived a helicopter crash where she was suffered broken ribs. Riefenstahl was in a mission of photographing the Nuba tribes. The incident made one cameraman to lose his eye. This contributed many handles Riefenstahl encountered in her career.

As stated earlier, Riefenstahl is the only woman in Germany that stands opportunities of accessing power because of her exemplary work in film production. Riefenstahl gained fame in Germany during Nazi party regime. Riefenstahl link with Hitler trigger attention to many that she had a love affair. The rumour lowered Riefenstahl morals in her career. Riefenstahl disputed the rumour which made her to be an outsider after the war. When women prosper in their career people view them as having an affair with the top to gain fame and favour.

The dawn of World war 11 and evident violence under Nazi regime affected Riefenstahl’s career. Riefenstahl confidence was shaken through the polish campaign of how she glorifies the Nazi party. Through Riefenstahl’s career, she encountered partisan attack from Germany troops where she witness execution of civilians.

Riefenstahl was amused by the cruel violence and had to make appeal to Hitler to stop the intense violence. Riefenstahl was forced to stop her film-making because she was disturbed mentally of the image she saw.

Riefenstahl attempted to distance herself from Nazi criminal nature but this was inevitable since Nazi authorities commissioned her film production. The support Riefenstahl got from the Germany government was viewed by critics as a way of promoting Nazi party, terming Riefenstahl production as a tool of propaganda.

Although, Riefenstahl was never a Nazi Party member, she found it difficult to separate herself from propaganda critics. Riefenstahl had made film production like Olympia and Triumph of the Will placing her as a propaganda artist.

After celebrating her 101 birthday, Riefenstahl met the cruelty of death on September 8, 2003, after suffering from cancer. She died of cancer in Pocking, Germany, September 8, 2003, on a few weeks after her 101st birthday. In an unusual interview, Riefenstahl reveal to the public concerning her health issues that she has to take painkillers and that could affect her career of film. Fantz, Ashley (1 October 2002.

Film production as Riefenstahl argues needs clear thoughts which were diminishing according to Riefenstahl. Therefore cancer had to put her controversial achievements in film production to an end. The concepts that Riefenstahl brought in the view of film production is reputable. Whether Riefenstahl produced film as an art or in a political context will continue to heat the minds of many. People based their arguments on the perspective view.

Basing on many critics in regards to Riefenstahl‘s film production, everyone who writes or discuss film, considered film as a propaganda tool. Referring film as propaganda of politics makes it insecure and dangerous drawing the question of who should be held responsible in film production. In the case of Riefenstahl‘s film production contributed much on painting Hitler and Nazi regime as good party. Riefenstahl had influenced large number of people who went to watch films in Movies Theater. The audience was compelled to follow Hitler beliefs. Hitler, Adolph (2000).Riefenstahl argues that she used Hitler’s character and his political role to make a movie.

Riefenstahl deserve not to be punished but rather praised for her effective work in film production. Riefenstahl had the responsibility of adding more people to Germany regime. Artist has a right to evoke emotions in their work and it is upon the audience to choose whether to agree or disagree. Once the film leaves the hands of the artist, the decision lies on audience to know which message to pick from the film.

Arts give the film producer to portray his/her beliefs and feelings. In the case of Leni Riefenstahl, the Triumph of the Will production was a command from Hitler which was against the use of film. Riefenstahl was hesitant to make the film but Hitler insisted that the film should be produced. Riefenstahl perhaps told Hitler about her ambition on acting and Triumph of the Will was her last film to make.

Riefenstahl was consistent in ensuring her film production is appealing to the public. If a cinema produced is not appealing, the targets audience will not pay attention to it.

Film critics have contended that Riefenstahl should be held responsible in glorifying Nazi party but not to account for Nazi’s horrible actions. It is the work of audience to be critical and artist should be aware that people will view the art in different way. One may want to hold Riefenstahl accountable for being human and failing to predict the future of possible eruption of Holocaust during Nazi regime. Riefenstahl case is partly a tragic because Holocaust occurred due to Riefenstahl misjudgment.

The Triumph of the Will was viewed as a propaganda tool because film critics argued that it featured only the positive side of Nazi party.

Riefenstahl got success and gained fame from propaganda, which was an important step to Riefenstahl. Her political function during party rally is inseparable from film aesthetics. Riefenstahl appeared to have benefited from dictatorship that was able to request her own studio sponsored by the government. Riefenstahl’s career on film pose question on whether her professionalism should be revolutionized from her political content. Riefenstahl was able to make transition of politics an art from her film production. Riefenstahl also was successful in changing women status in Germany acting as a role model in enlightening women freedom.

Riefenstahl changed fundamentality the relationship between politics and art but, until then, Riefenstahl death closed the historical chapter of German.

Works Cited

Stephen Prince, A New Pot of Gold: Hollywood under the Electronic Rainbow, 1980-1989 (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2000),

http://hubcap.clemson.edu/~sparks/sffilm/gender.html [accessed 30 June 2009]

Hitler, Adolph (2000), War Propaganda. In Marwick, A; Simpson, W. Primary Sources

Carl Rollyson (7 March 2007). “Leni Riefenstahl on Trial

Smith, David Calvert (1990). Triumph of the Will: A Film by Leni Riefenstahl

Riefenstahl, Leni (2002). Riefenstahl Olympia.

Mathews, Thomas. (2015)”Leni: The Life and Work of Leni Riefenstahl, by Steven Bach”, The Independent.

Kit, Borys (29 September 2014). Game of Thrones’ Actress to Play Len Riefenstahl in Jesse Owens Biopic

Corliss, Richard (22 August 2002). “That Old Feeling: Leni’s Triumph”. Time Magazine

Fantz, Ashley (1 October 2002). “Happy Birthday, Leni Riefenstahl”.

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