Leni Riefenstahl – A Great Artist – Part 3

Leni Riefenstahl's Portrait

Leni Riefenstahl’s next film was another work for Hitler and
the Nazi party, filmed and released the same year that Triumph of the Will was
released, 1935. It is another documentary / propaganda piece filmed at the
annual Nazi rally held in Nuremburg, entitled Tag der Freiheit! — Unsere
Wehrmacht! (Day of Freedom! — Our Armed Forces!). It’s a short film glorifying
the German army. It is not quite up to the artistic merits of her previous
works, especially Triumph of the Will, but it is a quality work for what it is;
basically it’s a showcase of the German army and how they operate.

The film was created due to the German army’s lack of
exposure in the brilliant Triumph of the Will. As such they were upset and
wanted a film of their own, they went to Hitler with their concerns and Hitler
accepted their idea and put it through to Riefenstahl.

Sadly the 1935 Nazi party rally in Nuremburg was the point
in which the Nazi ideologies on the Jewish people would begin to further come
to light and be implemented. Known as the Nuremberg Laws, they are one of the
first of many black marks on the history of Leni Riefenstahl and her work,
Adolf Hitler, the Nazi party, and much of the German population. The Nuremberg
Laws were of course some of the first official discrimination laws against the
Jewish people by the Nazi party.

 

Leni Riefenstahl Directing Olympia

Riefenstahl’s next film was Olympia, in which she
brilliantly documents the 1936 Summer Olympics. It is Leni Riefenstahl’s last
groundbreaking work in film (though not her last film). It is another
masterwork, along with Triumph of the Will, Olympia is her greatest work in
film; I can’t quite say for sure which one I enjoy more or which was more of a
breakthrough, both are cinematic masterpieces.

Olympia is a truly brilliant work. Known for its technical
achievements, Leni uses advanced techniques in the process of creating the
film, such as; tracking shots, everyone is aware of tracking shots today, but
they certainly weren’t as aware of them before Leni Riefenstahl; extreme
close-ups, everyone knows what an extreme close-up is now, but very few knew what
it was in 1936; smash-cut editing, which is now commonly used to give the
viewer a quick snap, a wakeup call if you will, they weren’t happening before
Olympia; as well as cleverly angled and designed shots and lighting techniques;
slow-motion techniques; and much more. The film showcases her absolute brilliance
as a director in film and as an artist in general.

Before Olympia the vast majority of shots in cinema were
done from stationary positions, little camera movement was involved and little
variation on top of that. Certainly there were plenty of other great filmmakers
both before and during the time of Leni Riefenstahl’s classic directing works
and I do not mean to discredit them at all. But the fact is that Leni
Riefenstahl truly was a great artist and a cinematic visionary; Leni Riefenstahl
was a pioneer and she should be seen and respected as such.

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