Posts Tagged ‘Leni Riefenstahl’

Leni Riefenstahl

Saturday, April 28th, 2012

Leni Riefenstahl found fame in Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany. Leni Riefenstahl became Nazi Germany’s most famous film maker. In a state where women played a secondary role to men, Riefenstahl was given a free hand by Hitler to produce propaganda films for the Nazi regime.

Leni Riefenstahl was born in August 1902. She was christened Helene Berta Amalie and she was born into a prosperous family. Her father owned a successful plumbing and engineering firm and he wanted Leni to follow him into the world of business. However, her mother believed that Leni’s future was in show business. At the age of eight, Leni started dancing lessons and she was enrolled into the Berlin Russian Dance School where she quickly became a star pupil. Riefenstahl gained a reputation on Berlin’s dance circuit and she quickly moved into films. She made a series of films for Arnold Fanck, and one of them, “The White Hell of Pitz Palu“, which was co-directed by G W Pabst, saw her fame spread to countries outside of Germany. In 1932, Riefenstahl produced her own work called “The Blue Light“. This film won the Silver Medal at the Venice Film Festival. In the film, Riefenstahl played a peasant girl who protected a glowing mountain grotto. The film attracted the attention of Hitler, who after his appointed to chancellor in January 1933, appointed Riefenstahl to be “Film Expert to the National Socialist Party”.

Hitler is said to have believed that the image Riefenstahl created for herself in “The Blue Light” epitomised the ultimate German woman. 

In 1933, Riefenstahl made a short film about the Nazi Party’s rally of that year. She was asked to make a much grander film of the 1934 event. This led to probably her most famous film – “Triumph of the Will”. The film won awards in both Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy but also, ironically, in 1937, it won the Grand Prix in Paris. The film used camera angles rarely seen before and frequently used shadowy images as opposed to images that were visually clear. The cameramen also did some of their work on roller skates.

Her next major piece of work was to film the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games. Again, this film, called “Olympia”, won many international awards. Her next major project was “Tieland” in which she played a gypsy heroine. Filming took her out of Germany and to Franco’s Spain. By the time the war ended, Riefenstahl had yet to edit the film and it was impounded during the denazification tribunals. After the war, Riefenstahl had many questions to answer.

She was accused of being the visual mouthpiece of the Nazi Party – something she denied. Riefenstahl pointed out that both “Triumph of the Will” and “Olympia” were made by her own independent film company and they were not mere Nazi stooges. She also pointed out the fact that she never been a member of the Nazi Party. 

Riefenstahl also had an enemy at the highest level of the Nazi Party – Joseph Goebbels. His diaries make it clear that she was seen by himself as a competitor for Hitler’s attention as opposed to a team player. She enjoyed such freedom to film because she had support from Hitler – something that Goebbels could not accept.

Immediately after the war, Riefenstahl was arrested and held for a short time at a lunatic asylum. She was rapidly ‘denazified’ in 1945 and not charged with any crime. However, she was forbidden from making films and her films remained banned in post-war Germany for years. This concerned some as Veit Harlan, the maker of “Jew Süss”, a virulently anti-Semitic film made during Hitler’s regime, was allowed to return to film making after the war ended. Some believed that Riefenstahl was forbidden to return to film making simply because she was female – in an industry dominated by men.

Eventually, Riefenstahl did return to film making and photography. She produced underwater films of the Red Sea. In 2002, she became the only person over 100 to release a film – “Underwater Impressions” which was a selection of footage from film clips made by Riefenstahl from the previous thirty years.

“Death does not frighten me. I’ve known so many peaks and troughs – enough for three life times.” Riefenstahl aged 97.


“Artistically she is a genius, and politically she is a nitwit.” Liam O’Leary, film historian.


“I am one of the millions who thought Hitler had all the answers. We only saw the good things; we did not know about the bad things to come.”“What have I ever done? I never intended harm to anyone. I do not know what I should apologise for. I cannot apologise, for example, for having made the film “Triumph of the Will” – it won the top prize. All my films won prizes.”

Leni Riefenstahl


“(Triumph of the Will) was a totally unique and incomparable glorification of the power and beauty of our movement.” Hitler

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Russia’s Winter Olympics slips into controversy over ‘Nazi images’

Monday, May 16th, 2011

Billboard adverts for elite housing complex at Sochi 2014 games uses ‘neo-Hitlerite‘ imagery from infamous design agency, say critics

Winter Olympics 2014 fascist signs

An advert for the Gorky Gorod elite housing complex near Sochi, for the 2014 Winter Olympics, viewed by critics as ‘openly fascist’ in style Photograph: Tom Parfitt for the Guardian

A promotional campaign linked to the 2014 Winter Olympics is stirring debate in Russia because of its use of allegedly “fascist” imagery.

The campaign employs images of blue-eyed, blond sportsmen and women which have been described by critics as “neo-Hitlerite” and “like something from a Leni Riefenstahl film”.

Images of an Aryan-looking snowboarder and an ice-skater gazing into the middle distance dominate giant billboards in Moscow and feature on the cover of brochures to advertise Gorky Gorod, an elite housing complex being built at Krasnaya Polyana near Sochi on Russia’s Black Sea coast. The complex is a private-public partnership which will be the Olympic media village at the 2014 Games.

“Without doubt the authors of this advertising were inspired by Nazi art,” said Ekaterina Degot, a well-known art historian and former curator at the State Tretyakov Gallery.

When the billboards were put up, the Russian art collective Voina, itself known for its controversial painting of a 65-metre penis on a drawbridge in St Petersburg, tweeted: “On Pushkinskaya Square opposite Gap, there is a huge advertisement, openly fascist in style, for elite housing in Sochi.”

Degot and others said the style and pose of the subjects in the images was heavily suggestive of Nazi art which stresses racial purity and superiority.

The Guardian has learned that the images of the sportsmen were produced by Doping-Pong, a St Petersburg-based design company which uses a swastika as one of its online “banners”.

One of the company’s recent projects is a series of erotic photographs of two young women, one called a “fa” (fascist), the other an “antifa” (anti-fascist activist), who grapple with each other in a wrestling ring and tear off each other’s clothes. The “fa” appears to win the fight and triumphantly wraps herself in a Nazi flag.

Doping-Pong also works closely with Katya Zashtopik, a Russian artist in her 20s who is known for her sympathies with the ultra-right, and who uses the online avatar Dopingirl.

On 20 April, Adolf Hitler’s birthday, she published a yellow “smiley” on her blog embellished with a toothbrush moustache and a slick of black hair. The caption read: “Happy Birthday.”

Dima Mishenin, one of the designers at Doping-Pong, denied a report that Zashtopik was personally involved with producing the Gorky Gorod images. “It’s our work, not hers,” he said.

Mishenin claimed he had no sympathy with far-right ideas, but said he believed “the Olympic aesthetic starts in Berlin in 1936 and is created by Leni Riefenstahl”.

He added: “For me this is about the aesthetics of beauty.”

Asked about the use of Nazi iconography in his other work, he said: “When I use a symbol of culture of Nazi Germany like a swastika then, of course, I use it as a representative of the victor nation.”

In an earlier interview with Russian media he said: “These symbols are trophies, like skulls on our Slavic fence.”

Some observers said criticism of the Gorky Gorod images was overblown.

Artemy Lebedev, one of Russia’s most famous young designers, wrote a blogpost calling the billboards “neo-Hitlerite, neo-Stalinist” but praised Mishenin for his creativity.

One 26-year-old web designer told the Guardian: “What’s fascist and Aryan about it? Just because the snowboarder doesn’t have a potato nose doesn’t mean he couldn’t be a Russian.”

Mikhail Fedotov, Dmitry Medvedev’s adviser on civil society and human rights, said he was troubled that a company which “played games with Nazi symbols” had been employed.

Gorky Gorod issued a statement from its creative director, Dmitry Leshchinsky, who hinted at a conspiracy to discredit the project.

“Any association with fascism is very unpleasant to us, and the opinions and methods of several ‘critics’ provoke exactly those kinds of associations,” he said.

“The publishing of disgusting labels and the promotion of ‘pasquinades’ in the media; destroying and pouring dirt on everything that stands out, even by the smallest margin, from the grey mass of advertising: that is real fascism, in my opinion.”

Degot said: “In itself, there is nothing forbidden about working with Nazi aesthetics if it is the basis of critical intellectual activity. However, I don’t see that reflex in these compositions [on the billboards].

“This is a commercial project, openly exploring the seductive potential that the new rich see in Nazi style.

“I think that must be a reflection of the pretensions wealthy young people have to aristocracy and tradition.”

A spokesman for Sochi 2014 declined to comment.

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