Leni Riefenstahl - A Great Artist - Part 1

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Leni Riefenstahl


Leni Riefenstahl has been a very controversial figure for many years now. In this series of articles, I will go over my thoughts and feelings on her life and her work. This is part. 1, covering her early life and first foray into film:

Born Helene Bertha Amalie Riefenstahl in Berlin, Germany on the 22nd of August, 1902; she began her professional and artistic career as a dancer, her dancing style was uniquely her own and widely popular at the time. She continued to express herself through interpretive dance until she injured her knee in her early 20's, at which point she began her acting career.

Her acting career began shortly after the injury to her knee brought her career as a dancer to an end. She had a couple of undocumented and minor rolls, until 1925 when she was finally given the lead role in Arnold Fanck's new mountain film: Der Heilige Berg (The Holy Mountain) as the dancer Diotima.



Leni Riefenstahl Dancing


The role of Diotima was written by Fanck specifically for Leni Riefenstahl. It is the first film that I watched in which Leni Riefenstahl was in front of the camera rather than behind it; it's a quality work with a great many interesting shots and scenes, Fanck does a great job filming the environment. At the time of my first viewing I was not familiar with Leni Riefenstahl's acting, as I said; nor was I familiar with Arnold Fanck's directing; and I must say that I was pleasantly surprised by both aspects of the film.

Riefenstahl gives a lovely performance as Diotima; the film also allows us a bit of insight as to what her dancing style and abilities were, which is wonderfully interesting, and I can only imagine that she was an even better dancer before her knee injury.

Leni went on to star in many other mountain films that were also directed by Arnold Fanck, of which I have now seen several. Generally she played an outgoing young girl, a very entertaining part and one that she did very well, which perhaps gives us a bit of insight as to what he personality was like in her youthful days.

Then Leni began her career as a director when the offer was made to her. Her first attempt at directing resulted in the breakthrough film Das Blaue Licht (The Blue Light) in 1932. With the support of Arnold Fanck, Béla Balázs, the production team at Henry R. Sokal-Film of Berlin, and many others; Riefenstahl was not only able to direct her first film, but she also starred in the leading role of the film as Junta; and not only that, but Leni also co-wrote the film, edited the film, and helped to produce the film.

The work was an absolute breakthrough for Riefenstahl. The film launched her new career as a complicated director. One that would lead her to be both praised and criticized, one that was undoubtedly one of the most influential in the history of cinema and film making.

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1 Comments


I'm happy to of found your blog. May Leni Riefenstahl be remembered as an artist and a brillent pioneer in cinematography. I dismiss the thought that she was a propogandist. "Triumph Of The Will" should be seen as a brillent work that captures a moment in history.

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This page contains a single entry by Charles Lumia published on June 13, 2008 2:59 AM.

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Leni Riefenstahl - A Great Artist - Part 2 is the next entry in this blog.

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